Pubdate: Fri, 04 Nov 2011
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2011 Sun-Times Media, LLC
Author: Frank Main
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)


Kate took the slim, white-painted metal pipe from her husband, Tom.

Known as a "one-hitter," the pipe was disguised to look like a 
cigarette, with one end colored light brown to resemble a filter.

Kate held a Bic lighter. She fired up the pungent green wad of pot 
packed into the far end of the pipe and pulled in a lungful of smoke.

She waited: One second. Two seconds. Three.

Finally, she exhaled a thin blue ribbon and smiled.

"I'm a lifer," Kate said as she sat in her living room. "I've been 
smoking pot for 30 years."

Kate and Tom live in an upscale neighborhood in DuPage County.

Like an estimated 17 million other Ameri-cans, they're regular marijuana users.

They're also among a growing number of Americans who support 
legalization of the drug. But they're careful about whom they let 
know about their habit. That's why they asked that their full names 
not be used.

Kate, 48, smokes about five times a week after work and on the 
weekends. Tom, 52, smokes almost as frequently.

They both have high-paying jobs in the financial industry. And they 
see themselves as connoisseurs.

"It's like a fine glass of wine where you twirl it, swish it in your 
mouth. You savor it," Kate said. "Some kinds are evergreen-smelling. 
Some are orangey, sticky. We like to try different strains and compare."

Kate's long relationship with marijuana began when she was in high 
school. Someone at a party dared her to smoke a joint. So she did.

"It was like the scene in the movie 'Walk Hard,' " she said with a 
laugh. "We were in a bathroom and someone said, 'You don't want to do 
this!' And I said, 'Yes I do!' "

Kate continued smoking pot through college.

Tom, on the other hand, didn't start smoking pot regularly until he 
was almost 30 and working in Chicago's Financial District. The first 
two times he tried pot in college, he suffered from splitting 
headaches. He tried it again as an adult and enjoyed the relaxing 
feeling he got.

"Very mellow and mild," he said. "Not like any other drug."

Kate said she's never bought marijuana from a drug dealer. There have 
always been friends of hers who had it and shared it with her.

"I never had to make that inner-city purchase. If I had to go 
somewhere scary to get it, I probably wouldn't use it," she said.

Kate briefly grew pot in her backyard vegetable garden. Her children 
were young and thought she was drying herbs in her basement. But the 
quality wasn't stellar.

"I started to grow it because the one thing that bothered me about 
pot was that I understood the violence associated with it all," she said.

Tom has always bought pot from people in the financial world who sell 
it on the side.

"I have used the same guy for the last four or five years," he said. 
"I'll send him a text message: 'Can we get together tomorrowUKP' 
He'll say: 'The usualUKP' 'Yes,' I'll say. 'Meet you downstairs for a 
cigarette.' "

When Kate and Tom started smoking pot, it was much less potent than it is now.

"In the past, one ounce might be gone in a month," Tom said. "Now one 
ounce might last four or five months. You only need to do one or two 
puffs these days."

But the "good stuff" isn't cheap, he said.

He and Kate smoke hydroponically grown sinsemilla - usually from 
Colorado or California where it's legally sold for medical purposes. 
Tom usually spends more than $350 for an ounce.

Kate and Tom have teenage children and they don't discuss their 
marijuana habit with them. "They know I wish it was legal," Kate said.

"They know I'm not against it. But they're minors and I don't want to 
cross that line. It is illegal, after all."

While Kate and Tom keep to themselves about smoking pot, Dan Linn is 
very open about it.

That's because he's the head of the Illinois chapter of the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws - NORML.

Linn, 29, said he started smoking pot in his early teens like Kate. 
He was an aggressive kid who got into a lot of fights before he 
started using pot before school every day. He continued to play 
travel hockey and worked a night job during high school.

"Once I started using cannabis, I started to calm down and focus on 
activities, whether it was academics, sports or outside hobbies."

Linn, who now works at a grocery, lobbies the Illinois General 
Assembly on a variety of marijuana-related bills. He's pushing for 
the taxation and legalization of marijuana in Illinois. He supports 
medical-marijuana legislation, which came eight votes short of passing in May.

Linn said he also backs a proposal to make petty possession of 
marijuana in Chicago a violation that results in a ticket but no 
criminal charges. Police, prosecutors and Cook County officials have 
been studying the idea recently. Separately, several aldermen 
introduced an ordinance Wednesday to allow cops to write $200 tickets 
for possession of up to 10 grams of pot.

"I think it would be a step in the right direction," Linn said.

Linn said he doesn't always pay for marijuana. Growers give him pot 
as a "tribute" for his lobbying work. He said he knows medical 
marijuana growers in Colorado and California who illegally sell some 
of their weed in Illinois. He also is friends with some indoor 
growers who live in Chicago and rural Illinois.

"Downstate, you can find counties where the sheriff tells people 
'This is not on my radar. I am not looking to arrest people for 
this.' And those growers are expanding their operations," Linn said. 
"But I know of stockbrokers, lawyers, people who work on the Board of 
Trade who grow it, too."

Kate, Tom and Linn all consider marijuana to be medicine. They know 
cancer patients who have used marijuana to treat the side effects of 
their ailments.

And Tom said marijuana alleviates the pain in his knees from playing 
competitive sports all the way through college.

Experts warn that smoking marijuana has been linked to psychosis in a 
small but growing number of users. But Kate, Tom and Linn insist 
marijuana is less dangerous than other drugs or alcohol.

They strongly support the legalization of pot, which they equate with 
lifting the prohibition on alcohol in the 1933 with the 21st Amendment.

"As far as I know, nobody has ever died from an overdose of 
cannabis," Linn said. "People die all the time from alcohol poisoning."

Tom and Kate sometimes have a cocktail or glass of wine while they 
are smoking. But Tom said he tells his kids that between alcohol and 
pot, alcohol is the bigger evil.

"I don't see how anybody who has sense can say alcohol should be 
legal but marijuana should be illegal," Tom said.

And with that, Kate handed Tom the one-hitter - and he took a puff.



The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found there were more than 
17 million regular marijuana users in the United States in 2010, a 20 
percent jump over just three years. The study also showed 2.4 million 
people ages 12 or older used marijuana for the first time in 2010 
compared to 2.2 million people in 2002, a 9 percent rise. By far, 
marijuana was the most widely used drug, the survey found.

A Gallup poll released Oct. 17 showed 50 percent of Americans 
surveyed said marijuana use should be legal, up from 46 percent.

Another poll conducted last year by The Washington Post and ABC News 
found more than 81 percent of Americans surveyed said they support 
legalization of the drug for medical purposes.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom