For me, marijuana wasn’t a gateway drug—it was an exit ramp to wasted opportunities.


Marijuana as a gateway drug is a decidedly one-sided argument. It goes like this:

Cannabis is no more a gateway drug than alcohol or tobacco and has no business being a Schedule 1 drug. If we can get the Feds to reschedule it, we can study it more carefully and prove that its positives outweigh its negatives.

Yes, let’s reschedule it. Let’s study the tar out of it and see what we can squeeze out of it medicinally. I’m all for harnessing natural products for potential health benefits. But I’ve already studied its effects in my own laboratory—my teenage brain.

Here are my findings

My use helped kill my motivation to earn more than solid Bs. It also helped ensure I scored pretty well on the SATs, yet not good enough for Ivy League schools.

Pot transformed my high school graduation ceremony into a hazy, silly experience in which I forgot that my name card was in my shirt pocket and had to hastily tell the handler how to have the announcer announce me.

My cannabis use helped me stay in my introverted shell. When I wasn’t stoned, I felt even more awkward. My English teacher asked me in front of the entire class, “Are you going to laugh your way through life?” “Yep,” I giggled. I was bombed that day.

Getting high was a way to laugh more and have more fun—grades and future college opportunities be damned. When I wasn’t wasted, I felt like a ghost—like I was there, but not really, if you know what I mean.

It made me feel like a faded version of myself—like Bilbo Baggins’ feeling “thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” Remember Bilbo, the hobbit? He enjoyed his weed—Longbottom Leaf (nerd alert), which was likely a nicotiana tobacco blend, not indica or sativa cannabis. Sorry, stoners.

I remember doing homework at home once—when I wrote my senior theme paper. Otherwise I did it during the class before the class. My using inspired me to skate through school with the least amount of effort. It clouded my mind, degraded my scholastic performance, sapped my drive and enhanced my introversion. For me, it was a gateway drug to nowhere.

Opening the marijuana gate

It happened when a waiter at a restaurant where I worked invited me to smoke a doobie in his car. My mindset before the puff: Drugs were a loser’s game. They were bad, and if you tried them, you were a fool. At the moment of truth, I took a drag, obliterated the taboo and opened the gate.

For most, marijuana is a gateway drug. Not because it makes you want to snort or shoot up, but because it breaks the barrier. Once it’s broken, what’s to stop you from trying other drugs in search of other highs?

It’s not that pot makes you want to try harder drugs; it’s the seemingly harmless lever that opens the gate. Once you take your first draw, you’ve crossed over. You’ve cleared the hurdle—you’ve become a drug user because you used a drug.

A fellow blogger and childhood friend of mine sees things differently even though we grew up in the same church and community and attended the same junior high and high schools. He writes that he only transitioned to harder drugs because of the marketing skills of his dealers.

I respect and validate his experience. But what he claims is after the fact: He blew coke after he opened the gate and stepped through. Would a dealer’s marketing prowess have been as effective had he not smoked pot first? Maybe. I wonder.

For the record, I also snorted cocaine, dropped acid, and took crank. But I did so because I opened the gate to these drugs with that first joint. The people I got harder stuff from didn’t have to market it to me at all. I was all in for new experiences because I’d smoked pot. There were no more taboos because my gate stood swinging in the wind.

Weed your life, not your mind

In my case, marijuana was a gateway to stronger stuff because it greased the skids. It slew the giant of fear and overcame all the warnings from people who tried to steer me clear of a teenage wasteland. Maybe these well-meaning folks need to improve their marketing skills.

I’m not sure about my skills, but here’s my message:

Hey, punks—take it from a doofus like me who wasted his high school years toking with his doofus friends. Don’t do it. It’s stupid and a waste of time. Plus, it sears your lung sacs and does much more damage to them than filtered cigarettes—like five times more.

Do this instead:

Guard your gate. What you think is harmless could let in a flood of wasted opportunities and drown your potential. These friends of yours who are getting high and think you should too will be somewhere in ten or twenty years.

Will they be in solid marriages and be loving, effective parents? In fulfilling jobs? Will they be in rehab?

Junior high and high school can be an exciting and essential time of your life. Play sports. Play an instrument. Get good grades. Talk to your school counselor and find out how to get accepted into colleges you’ll be proud to earn a degree from. Enjoy your prom by not taking it too seriously. Be sober for your graduation ceremony, so you’ll remember it clearly. It only happens once.

And for parents who don’t mind advice from someone who isn’t one yet:

Fill your kids’ lives with you. Take them camping, hiking, shopping, to sports games, and on walks. Watch movies with them, invite them to make dinner with you, help you change the oil, or plant a garden.

Be in their lives when they’re young, and maybe they won’t go looking for kicks with foolish friends. Maybe they’ll respect your decision to value them over your work, which is a reflection of your character. Perhaps they’ll respect your anti-drug stance and want to be like you rather than like their clueless friends.

Say no to stupid

Don’t listen to the nonsense about the harmlessness of marijuana. No drug is harmless. Even moderate pot use can make you harmless. Or worse, it can open the door to drugs that can make you dangerous—like meth.

When you’re young and dumb, getting wasted seems like fun. But after the laughs and munchies, it’s just a fake, drug-induced sensation that doesn’t last. Taking your first drag can easily lead to a first snort, drop, or injection.

People who care about you will tell you it’s a waste of time, talent and life. Ask yourself: Whom will you listen to? Those who want to sell you a phony, drug-fueled loser experience or those who resisted and kept their gates closed and are so glad they did?

It’s your life and your decision. Don’t blow it.

Cali Crazy: A Texan’s take on the Golden State–part 7–Cali cannabis kookiness


The little ol’ California county I now call home is neck-deep in controversy concerning the wacky weed. And the way I see it, the hubbub is entirely self-inflicted—like what happens when a city slicker monkeys around with a gun and shoots his dumb self in the foot.

How we got here

Because California lawmakers saw fit to legalize recreational marijuana last November, counties have until January 1, 2018 to wrangle their own cannabis ordinances in order to regulate the stuff before the state steps in and regulates it for ’em. It’s all about local versus state control. And from what I’ve seen around here, California counties need all the control they can get.

Anyways, our local county government, made up of five “supervisors” began the ordinance crafting process in good time and in good order in September of 2016. Problem is that after soliciting applications for folks to be on their “Cannabis Working Group,” the supervisors settled for five people, four of whom are growers.

Poisoning the pot

And to top it off, our supervisors defend their lopsided group by pointing out that their application process was open to folks of all marijuana persuasions—yea or nay. They say that it’s not their fault that only potheads signed on. Now why do you suppose that happened?

Is it because normal everyday folks are kinda busy … I don’t know, working jobs, taking care of their youngsters and generally going about their lives? And that maybe, just maybe, those who love weed and claim it cures cancer and wanna sell it for big bucks were locked and loaded and ready to jump right in?

Hey, there, supervisors—let’s leave off the blame dodging and butt covering and take responsibility—Texas style. Y’all were elected to come up with ordinances for all issues your county will face. Don’t shift blame; do your dang jobs.

Deciding whether to allow cannabis cultivation, dope dispensaries and everything else unleashed on us by the knuckleheads in Sacramento in our county is your responsibility. If you wanna kick the work to a working group, that’s on you, but make sure you do it right by balancing the representation. And a working group with four marijuana growers and one wanting to grow ain’t balanced.

Duped by dopers

In fact, it’s a bit like signing up a bunch of foxes to design a hen house. And the whole silly show has played out just about like you’d expect. The working group shot for the moon by writing virtually everything they could ever want into a pipe dream of a pot ordinance only to shoot themselves in the foot with their greed, arrogance … and incompetence.

And then they couldn’t see through the smoke to realize they woke up the bear ’til it was too late. The opposition formed, letters and emails flooded the supervisors’ mailboxes, and the local paper began printing opinion pieces from citizens who DO NOT want commercial cannabis cultivation in their county. Same goes for dope dispensaries.

And then there’s this wannabe rancher/farmer who keeps harping about all the jobs commercial cannabis is gonna bring to the county. Hundreds, he says. This from a poser who’s got a reputation for cheating investors and lobbing lawsuits. At the cannabis meetings he goes on and on about pot plants being nothing but farming. “It’s just agriculture,” he mutters when things look like they aren’t going his way.

Mister, marijuana ain’t tomatoes. And you know it.

Working group ain’t working

So here we are with less than three months to go and no ordinance. And the supervisors and their working group have been “working” on the silly thing for over a year now. And this while most other California counties have either passed theirs or passed moratoriums to give them more time.

So, now the next step is a “public hearing” where people—yea or nay—can tell the supervisors why we should or shouldn’t vote on a moratorium and why commercial cannabis should or shouldn’t be banned in our county. This is when the growers will again go on about how they want to come out of the shadows and get all legal and regulated. And that if the supervisors pass a moratorium or ban commercial growing, they’ll be “forced” to grow illegally in order to feed their families.

Hey, grower—no one forces anyone to break the law. You could always do something else to feed your family. You know, a career choice that doesn’t allow you to work the system and grow up to 99 “medical” marijuana plants because some shady doctor prescribed that many to a patient. How about getting a gig in which you need not be a “caregiver” who supplies sick folks with weed?

Sick spliff

Now, lemme say right here and now—I’m not against genuinely sick people using pot to help them get through chemotherapy and deal with the ravages of other diseases and conditions. What I AM saying is that medical marijuana, granted by California way back in 1996 and refined legislatively since, has been and is being abused like it’s nobody’s business. And caregiver—you know this good and well.

Now some of you growers may truly care about sick folks. And maybe your hearts are in the right place on this issue. But c’mon, now—prove it to me and to your county by obeying the law and being realistic and sensitive to your neighbors concerning this high-stakes issue.

Go ahead and keep growing your medical weed. But be sure to keep the stinky commercial grows outta this beautiful county. Folks here love the clean, non-diverted lakes, rivers and streams and the piney, fresh air.

They don’t want more crime, more joblessness, more environmental damage, more dead wildlife from poisons, guard dogs, ugly fences, private security and transient and seasonal weed workers. And they don’t want marijuana evenmore accessible to their youngsters with dope dispensaries on main street.

I gotta admit it—I love this nutty, crazy county. And I want it to stay the way it is—or maybe even get better. No commercial cannabis would go a long way to that end—says this California cowboy.