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 second installment of Over 50 with Catherine Hiller, we explore the theme of 'Decades,' where our authors compare how marijuana culture has evolved over the span of two different decades.
If you missed the first installment, read Over 50: Coming Out Green here.
Like many young people, I thought that current trends would last forever. In my twenties -- for most of the 1970's -- I saw that 'grass,' as we called it, was becoming increasingly popular. Once exclusively associated with jazz musicians, beatnik poets and student radicals, by the mid-seventies, pot was becoming ubiquitous.
It was the drug of choice for hippies and would-be hippies by the millions. Hippies shaped the music, fashion, art, and philosophy of a generation, and marijuana was our inspiration -- our bliss.
But it wasn't only only hippies. Ghetto brothers, sorority sisters, junior executives and rednecks alike -- everyone was smoking pot, and it felt like weed could become a transcultural bond. Sure, it was illegal, but it was part of the milieu and literally part of the air we breathed. Every party I attended in the 70's had a room or a balcony where people were meant to share a joint.
There was even a smoking room at my wedding.
Marijuana legalization seemed inevitable, and I fully expected that by the year 2000, commuter trains would have a club car for drinking, as they did then, as well as a pot car for smoking.
That's how good a prophet I am. For by the nineties, the pendulum had swung. Getting high was no longer cool. Alcoholics Anonymous was shaping the culture, and in certain LA zip codes, you went to AA meetings to network.
I remember going to brunch in a beautiful garden in the Hollywood Hills at the home of some old friends whom we hadn't seen recently. The sun was shining on the roses, and I could smell the bacon cooking -- it seemed like the perfect setting for a session. I asked the hostess, "Can I light a joint?"
She blanched. "No, no, not here!" She looked around, as if terrified that someone else had heard my social gaffe.
Then, she whispered with distaste, "Go to the other side of the garage." I slunk away and did my thing.
By the nineties, I was in my forties, and my cohort was raising children and furthering their careers, instead of getting stoned and listening to Tommy.
For the first time in my life, I felt ashamed of my habit -- no, addiction? The culture had shifted, and I began to see smoking in a negative light. I began beating myself up. Here I was with a crumbling marriage, getting high on the porch in the cold.
Later, after my divorce, I met a new man who went to AA. He was young and very clean, and I wanted to be clean with him, too. So I quit pot for three years, but naturally, started smoking again after my "new man," whom I later married, began drinking a glass of beer at dinner.
Soon, I was out on the porch again.
Now the pendulum has swung once more, and the porch is filling up. It's not so cold out here any more.