The state of Vermont just became the first state in the nation where our elected representatives voted to legalize marijuana. This isn’t happening by a citizens’ referendum, as happened in California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, but by the people we elected to represent us in our State Capitol.
That’s what happens when you have a truly citizen government: you don’t need referendums to move a progressive agenda forward — you just need to do the hard work of convincing your representatives, who are, in reality, just your neighbors.
I smoke marijuana. By legalizing marijuana through the legislative process, the responsible citizens whom I call my neighbors have signaled their acceptance of my right to relax in whatever way I see fit.
I don’t smoke marijuana at work. I don’t smoke it before work. I do not go to work stoned, nor have I ever gone to work stoned. When I was a ski bum living in Utah, where my only responsibility was to yell the word “Hamburger!” down a cafeteria line to a person who had the responsibility of actually cooking the burger, even then, with essentially zero responsibilities, I still did not go to work stoned. Now that I’m a teacher who is responsible for working closely with students who have been diagnosed with a variety of emotional and behavioral disorders, there’s no way in hell I would go to work stoned.
Marijuana does make me better at my job though. The hyper-intensity that comes from a marijuana high is not dissimilar to the intensity that comes from sitting with another human being and allowing yourself to become completely present for them.
Nor is it that different from sitting at a keyboard and trying to make yourself completely present to an absent reader, present in a way that the force of your voice cuts across space and time to be with your reader whenever and wherever they happen to find your text.
Both experiences require a sense of hyper-intensity, and marijuana allows me to exercise that particular sense.
For too long, society has asked responsible marijuana smokers to live in the shadows lest we get pigeonholed with all of the slackers and stoners whose depiction we can find in virtually every movie or show where marijuana is present.
But with this move by the Vermont legislature, my elected officials acknowledge the reality that people who go to work every day, raise kids every day, and volunteer in their community every day, can smoke marijuana and still be positive members of society.
I’m not ashamed of smoking marijuana, just as I am not ashamed of enjoying a cold beer, or watching a violent movie, or playing a violent video game, or of doing anything else that a 40-year-old person ought to be able to do.
Thank you, my fellow Vermonters, for recognizing my right to be a responsible adult.
Now if only you’d get rid of all of the “No Turn on Red” signs.