Pubdate: Wed, 17 Nov 1999
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 1999 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Contact:  1000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA 22229
Fax: (703) 247-3108
Author: Patricia Pearson
Note: Patricia Pearson, a freelance writer in Toronto, is a member of USA
TODAY's board of contributors.
Also: This OPED, along with another "Glamorizing Our Past Compounds
Mistakes," posted separately, occupied the top half of the newspaper's The
Forum page.

What Should You Tell Your Kids About Your Drug Use?


Not long ago, I attended an elegant wedding in which, among the victuals
circulating as the party approached midnight, were a hash pipe, courtesy of
one guest, and a hydroponic pot joint, courtesy of another.

A small, appreciative crowd gathered around the pipe owner. ''Wow,''
murmured a stock broker, ''I haven't seen hash in years.'' The architect
who'd brought the pipe nodded. ''You certainly don't see good hash much,''
offered a TV producer. ''Sometimes you get stuff that looks like
reprocessed record vinyl. But otherwise I see only pot.''

The hash, everyone who puffed the pipe agreed, was smashing. A velvet high,
inspiring some happy, witty repartee. The hydroponic pot, on the other
hand, proved a bit strong, causing one fellow to forget what he was saying
in the middle of a joke.

''You have to be sparing with hydroponic, I find,'' said a lawyer, as the
stoned fellow apologized with a laugh. ''One hit usually does it.''

What was remarkable about this wedding party was the fact that it was
actually unremarkable. Marijuana in one form or another is so common at the
weddings, New Year's Eve parties and dinner soirees of thirtysomething
professionals in urban America that it doesn't merit scandalized remark. It
has come to be perceived as a special-occasion drug, like good champagne or

Has a whole generation lost its sense of responsibility and well-being?
Well, no. You never see a ''pot addict'' who drains his life savings to
feed the habit. You don't see an epidemic of slaughter on the highways
caused by ''smoking and driving.'' There are no violent uprisings between
spouses or at nightclubs after the inhalation of ganja.

To the contrary, people who smoke pot tend to lie down on couches and eat

Ah, yes, you may retort, but that's the problem: Pot smokers lose their
motivation! No, they don't. Two former dabblers in weed are now the
governors, respectively, of Minnesota and New Mexico. One is the laconic,
eloquent presidential hopeful Bill Bradley. Canadian snowboarder Ross
Rebagliati won an Olympic gold medal, the Grateful Dead became one of the
highest-grossing concert acts of all time, and everybody I've ever met who
smokes pot now and then, ranging from high-paid scientists to award-winning
writers, carries on pro forma.

Pot is like alcohol: People undone by it usually are trying to undo
themselves because something in their lives is too painful or too scary to
confront soberly. The same is true of overeating, workaholism, abusing
painkillers and gobbling tranquilizers.

This difference between self-abuse and recreational pot smoking is so
widely and tacitly understood that the only people who miss the point are
the pundits and ''experts'' who shout that pot is just one step down the
road to heroin, crack cocaine and death. Everybody else, including several
squirming politicians, remains silent, preferring to keep the secret -- of
how they found a baby sitter last weekend, smoked pot, went bowling and had
a blast -- to themselves.

A few years ago, my local newspaper ran a big feature about what steps
parents could take to warn their teens off pot. We're talking about baby
boomers here, who, according to the paper, were supposed to say to their
kids: ''I did try marijuana when I was your age, but we knew very little
about drugs then, and it was an experience that I regret.''

Yeah, right. Like you regret the time that you smoked a bong with your
first boyfriend in college during the Summer of Love and stayed up all
night talking about philosophy and listening to Van Morrison and then made
love in a bubble bath.

Furthermore, you rue the time that you tried honey oil on a cigarette at a
King Crimson concert one beautiful night in July, and it was like, the best
concert you ever attended.

And that time you were on your honeymoon in Jamaica and someone offered you
ganja tea, and you sat on the beach in mellow bliss until the sun set?
Never again, you vowed.

Either your teen is an idiot, or they're gonna look at you like you're one.

Is it not far more credible than playing this hypocrite's game to instruct
our youth -- 23% of whom have tried pot, according to the Parents' Resource
Institute for Drug Education -- on wise, sparing usage? We might tell them,
for instance, that hydroponic is awfully strong, and too much will play
havoc with their short-term memory while they're stoned, making it
difficult to follow the plot of a movie or the gist of their friends'
conversations. Best to go home, in that case, and just listen to music.

We must tell them that they should never make hash brownies and leave the
pan on the kitchen counter without telling anyone else who might be tempted
to eat them what's in the ingredients.

We should prepare them for the enhancements of their perception, which will
make them more appreciative of music, comedy, beautiful starry skies and
raw cookie dough, but can also enhance their self-consciousness so that
they keep wondering whether they just said something stupid. Heightened
awareness cuts both ways. They need to know that.

When I was 14 and was found face-down in a snowbank, blotto on Kahluha, by
my best friend's dad, he knew exactly what to do. He knew how to sober me
up, and he knew how to counsel me on appropriate drinking. I learned from
him, and over the next few years of trial and spectacular error, I figured
out how to drink.

My friend's dad had no corresponding knowledge of pot, nor did my parents.
They worried; they panicked; they overreacted; they wondered what was so

We do have the knowledge now. Our kids can use it. So let's regain some
credibility and stop pretending that we didn't inhale.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake