Crucifixes and Bongs

I won’t get into the full details, but I ran into a situation where my apartment lease was terminated at the end of February of this year but I had plans to move to California by the end of April. Getting a new lease was not only pointless but impossible. So this family I babysat for let me use their guest room in the interim. Generally speaking, I have the house to myself from 8am-3:30pm, then their 10-year old son comes home from school and I watch him until the parents get home around 5:30/6ish. 
His mother came home at 2:30 one day at an inopportune time. I and a friend had been smoking some weed and I stowed the bong on the side of the porch until I could safely dispose of it. Well, she found it. She freaked and considered calling the police, questioned if I’d exposed her son to drugs, etc etc. Typical prudish response from a Catholic Tea Partier. I wasn’t able to fully defend myself because, at the time, I was technically still on parole and I couldn’t risk any police involvement. I appeased her and said what I had to to ease the situation. Ultimately I was allowed to stay in the home for two more weeks but wouldn’t be allowed to babysit. Several things about the whole incident have stuck in my mind, so I decided to write a letter that I’ll leave behind for her after I move out and figured I’d share it (see below). I don’t know if it will ultimately teach her a thing or two or not, but it certainly helped me to get some shit off my chest. 
Here it is, in full
I didn’t feel comfortable expressing myself without censorship after the “Bong Incident” from a couple weeks ago and I would be remiss not to take the opportunity now that I’m gone to provide full disclosure and a little education regarding the laws of this state when it comes to marijuana. 

For starters, it’s been decriminalized in small quantities for many years. Possession of 25 grams or less is only a $100 fine. Bongs themselves are legal since they are not exclusively used for ingesting marijuana and can be used for tobacco. You can find dozens of models on prominent display at numerous head-shops like Dabb City in Scotia and Deja Vu in Albany. 

Since you have just recently learned what a bong looks like, I thought you should also know what it does. Water is put in the bottom to filter out the harmful elements of marijuana smoke. That particular bong was a double-percolator, designed with two extra filter systems. The result provides a much healthier method of consumption. People that smoke marijuana responsibly use this device or a vaporizer. It’s a GOOD thing. 

I held my tongue before, but I have to say that the photo you attempted to take of the bong for the police would have been completely inadmissible, even if it were an illegal item, because they would need the actual prints to prove that I had any association with it. Further, prints alone would only have proven that at some point in time I had touched it. It still wouldn’t prove I used it. All you’d have had, at best, was circumstantial evidence against me for the equivalent of a traffic infraction.

So not only would calling the police have been an absurdly pointless gesture, it would have been embarrassing for all involved. The cops, who have much better things to do, would have rolled their eyes or even laughed at you and I know this from personal experience. I’ve had an officer spot me smoking weed from a pipe on a doorstep in downtown Albany years ago. He came over, took a hit, emptied the rest on a sidewalk, and returned the pipe. He smiled and said, “Shoot for better quality next time. That stuff was weak.” And walked away.

Now, it was entirely your right to end your trust in me in regards to watching Dustin. I mean, I did watch him without incident for over half a year without incident… but hey, that should all go straight out the window because of a 100% legal bong in your backyard (and I say 100% legal because it had no marijuana left in it since it had already been smoked). Having his Aunt watch him rather than myself was more of an inconvenience for you, not me, but it still was difficult to watch such an avoidable inconvenience play out. As I said before, I would never and have never “exposed” Dustin to drugs of any kind. It was rather insulting that you’d think I would do such a thing. But he certainly has been exposed to alcohol in your house, and not by me. Funny how he seems to be okay, isn’t it? 

But what truly upset me was how you told the story to Dustin. I noticed he avoided even speaking to me for several days and I began to feel as though I had the plague. Finally I asked him if we could talk for a few minutes and he agreed. I began simply by asking him what he knew. Apparently you told him that “Mr. Dave’s friend used drugs”. 

And I cannot begin to express how much my blood began to boil. 

Yes, marijuana is technically a “drug”. But it’s as much a drug as the caffeine found in the coffee and soda you drink as well as in the numerous liquor bottles in the closet downstairs. I am not condemning the use of any of those because I certainly enjoy my java and liquid courage too. But it needs to be noted that alcohol in particular is massively more dangerous than marijuana. Google it for two minutes and you’ll quickly confirm this. Weed has never chemically killed a single human being in all of recorded history because it is not possible to overdose. Weed has successfully been used to treat depression, anxiety, seizure disorders, sleeplessness, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, various aches and pains, improves appetite, reduces nausea, shrinks tumors, and mitigates and in some cases outright prevents the spread of cancer. 

Alcohol, meanwhile, kills 75,000 Americans every year. Every. Year.

And it’s that hypocrisy, whether knowingly or unknowingly demonstrated, that upsets me. You also failed to specify what the “drug” you found was, leaving it to Dustin’s imagination to fill in the blanks. That’s terrific, give the kid the impression that Mr. Dave associates himself with someone that uses heroin or cocaine or something equally ridiculous. No wonder he was avoiding me!

He started asking questions about marijuana and I didn’t feel comfortable going into any great detail, but I did state the basic fact that there are good drugs and bad drugs. I asked him if he took any medicine when he was sick and when he said yes, I told him, “See? It’s all about what drugs and how they are used.” He asked what marijuana was and all I told him was that it is a medicinal herb that grows naturally from the Earth and helps many people, but that the government has yet to reflect that in it’s laws. I told him that it can cause harm during brain development which isn’t complete until the age of 25, so you can sleep soundly knowing that I did not in any way, shape, or form encourage the use of weed and instead did exactly the opposite. I gave him the broad strokes about what it is without any alarmist nonsense. Just facts. 

In the continued interest of the full disclosure I promised at the start of this letter… I have proudly been a near-daily pot smoker for nearly half a decade. (SPOILER ALERT: It was actually my bong. And weed. But it was always, always kept within my vehicle which was my property). 

When I was first diagnosed with severe OCD in the 7th grade I was prescribed Zoloft. It came with plenty of side effects including difficulty sleeping, stomach pains, and a general numbing sensation. It dulled my senses. After learning about the medicinal benefits of marijuana and being curious, I decided to give it a shot a couple years after college (not during, oddly enough). It turned out to be far, far more effective at treating my anxiety and bouts of depression. I dare say it even saved my life on more than one occasion. It also lessened my consumption of alcohol a great deal to the point that I hardly drink. Do I smoke solely for medicinal purposes? Of course not. I have a little more than is necessary sometimes because it’s fun. Just like people drink alcohol for fun. Except unlike alcohol, it’s not going to kill me, cause weight gain, etc. 

There has been a bullshit stigma attached to marijuana for decades thanks in large part to Big Pharma and Big Tobacco who don’t want to lose out on their profit margins. Police unions have also funded anti-marijuana propaganda so they can continue filling cell beds with harmless “offenders” to satisfy the ever-increasing demands of American for-profit prisons. But the medical science community is quite clear on the subject, but they have far less influence on the larger public.

Money talks but only sheep listen. 

If after learning more of the facts about this life-saving plant doesn’t change your view of it, that is fine. We’re all entitled to our own morals and values whether they are stooped in reason or not. However, you would be remiss to ever again judge someone for smoking marijuana now that you are more aware of just how mild a drug it truly is. 

You mentioned during our meeting that you wished to “shield Dustin” from drugs altogether. Unfortunately, ignorance isn’t bliss. My younger cousins have reported to me that they’ve seen weed, cocaine, LSD (which is actually the 3rd least toxic drug on the planet, even safer than marijuana!), and various painkillers (drugs like morphine and vicodin that ARE actually dangerous yet readily prescribed… funny how that works, eh?) starting as early as the 8th grade. Marijuana will likely be at least decriminalized nationwide in the next five years, so start bracing yourself! 

This stuff is out there and whether Dustin is in a private or public school he will inevitably be exposed to it. No amount of shielding can prevent that. So if he’s simply fed the line that “drugs are bad” without any context or reason or nuance he will actually have LESS reason to say no. Kids love to ask “why” because they crave that reason, they crave that further level of understanding. They soak up knowledge like a sponge. And if that knowledge isn’t provided they turn to first-hand experience.

“Don’t do it” isn’t an answer, it’s the avoidance of an answer. That never satisfies a child (or most adults, for that matter). It will only make him more curious to find out about drugs on his own and that could potentially lead to a dangerous method of discovery via trial and error. When he only knew that “Mr. Dave’s friend used drugs”, he was quiet and nervous and troubled. When I explained to him what exactly that drug was and provided the appropriate context, I saw his concerns vanish. He is now LESS likely to try marijuana at a young age because of it, of that I am certain, as well as LESS likely to condemn someone unfairly for smoking marijuana. He was more receptive than I expected.

– – – – –

If you read through all of that calmly then kudos, because I’m sure some of it ruffled feathers even if it wasn’t my explicit intent. Hopefully in a few days you’ll see that I only sincerely sought to open your mind about nonsensical taboos, which should prove useful as marijuana gradually becomes more mainstream, and provided some sound advice on how to effectively prevent Dustin from using the truly dangerous drugs down the road. 

Just my two cents.

Lastly, I’d like to make clear that I’m not “mad” at anyone whatsoever. I come from an extremely conservative and Catholic household myself and unfortunately am familiar with how skittish and fear-driven that demographic often is when it comes to even remotely secular matters. But from my experience, being taught that there’s “this world” and “that world” only serves to create division, stress, and inevitably causes pain. It is far healthier to recognize that there is only THE world, a place of both crucifixes and bongs, and whether or not they yield something positive or negative is contingent strictly on the wisdom of their wielders rather than what is wielded.

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