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Over 50: Family Strains with Catherine Hiller

Cannabis veteran Catherine Hiller discusses how her family feels about marijuana.

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Over 50 is a recurring series that highlights the lives and stories of veterans of cannabis culture. As we work to achieve a new, normalized era of cannabis culture, it is important to remember the history of where we came from and how far we have come. Using the insight of our culture's pioneers, we revisit times that they experienced first-hand; when flower was far from legalization and acceptance, through Over 50, we experience their stories through their unique perspectives and tales.

For this edition of Over 50, we have Catherine Hiller as our guest. Catherine is the author of the widely appreciated "Just Say Yes: A Marijuana Memoir." For the third installment of Over 50 with Catherine Hiller, we explore the theme of 'Family Strains,' where our authors share how their involvement with cannabis culture has affected important relationships with their families.

If you missed the first installment, read Over 50: Coming Out Green here. Or, read the second installment, Over 50: Decades.


My husband is very supportive. My three grown sons feel some mixture of pride, amusement, and embarrassment about my new book Just Say Yes: A Marijuana Memoir, which has been featured in popular publications and websites. My friends are happy for me in my new role as a marijuana advocate.

But my mom does not approve.

You would think at my age, it wouldn’t matter. After all, I’m collecting Social Security myself. Barcroft TV, a UK outfit, made a short documentary about me with the demeaning title, “Potty Pensioner Puffs A Joint A Day For Fifty Years.”

Still, I want my 91-year-old mother to encourage me in my candor about cannabis.

We also have so much in common. She’s always been a free-spirit - a bohemian - a woman of the senses. Like me, she’s a writer, and her subject of choice is the French author Colette, who celebrates touch, taste, smell (senses marijuana enhances). My mother has also always been passionate about various causes, like myself. I wondered why she didn't have more sympathy for cannabis legalization.

Her dry assessment of my book? “Well, I liked it more than I intended.”

In all fairness, she’s given pot a try. I got her high once or twice, with great difficulty, for she has trouble with the smoking process. She coughs a lot and seems to believe that tilting her head back, rather than inhaling will bring smoke into her lungs. Once high, she is merry and talkative—pretty much the same way she usually is.

A few years ago, while traveling together in Hawaii, my oldest son gave my mother a marijuana cookie before a drive around the island in a rented convertible. From his account:

"We were driving, the sun was setting, and I had Thievery Corporation on the stereo. Grandmother, who has never liked ANY electronic music, turns to me and says, "This music is soooooooo good!" I cracked up. Pretty soon, she's telling me "I get it, I really get it! I know why everyone likes marijuana!" It wasn't long before she was asking for some water, and then fell asleep.

My mother enjoyed these experiences, but still doesn’t approve of regular use. She remains hesitant about legalization in fear of the idea of children getting stoned, despite explaining the many strict limitations and age requirements that would be implemented. 

She herself is a “high on life” kind of person, although she’s too sophisticated to put it like that. She doesn’t have the need to enhance or escape from reality. She gets no particular pleasure from alcohol, either: what’s the point when life is so exciting and hilarious just as it is?

But eventually, something wonderful happened. My mom reads an article in The New Yorker which says that blacks and whites use cannabis at comparable rates but in state prisons, there are significant racial disparities in “low level drug offenders—possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia.” In New York, a black person is 4.5 times as likely as a white person to be arrested for weed.

For a few days, my mother’s attitude changed. She sent me an email telling me how proud she was of me for fighting injustice.

But it doesn't last long. Pope Francis then became her new crush, because of his environmental encyclical, and my mother slips back into her usual disdain for the subject of marijuana.

I gave a reading at a bookstore in her hometown this weekend. Well into the Q & A, she stood up, clambered onto the stage, and pronounced, “I just want you all to know that I do not endorse my daughter’s ideas!”

I have been to many readings, but I’ve never seen the like.

Perhaps I should introduce her to my new vaporizer