Friday, June 8, 2012

My Mom Let Me Smoke Weed When I was a Teenager

by Dan Cunneen

I was 14 years old the first time I thought I smoked marijuana. It was in 1977 and I was at my friend Ken Yoder’s house in Gresham, Oregon, a suburb just outside Portland. Ken had been trying to get some weed from his cool uncle all afternoon, but he wasn’t having any luck. We were sitting dejectedly in his room when suddenly Ken remembered that he already had some stash.

Ken had smoked pot before, but since it would be my first time, I was pretty nervous. We sat cross-legged on the floor of his bedroom and he sparked the pipe. I smoked, coughed a lot and told Ken I felt stoned. After listening to side one of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, Ken spilled the beans: It wasn’t really pot, it was some sort of "legal marijuana" that he got at the For What It’s Worth records on Burnside Street.

After being forced to endure Ken laughing hysterically at me for acting high, I finally asked him why he told me it was real weed. "I thought it would be a good way to pop your pot cherry, man! That way you won’t be so nervous when you really do try pot for the first time!"

Of course we eventually did get some weed another day, so my "pot cherry" was appropriately popped.

All my friends and I enjoyed smoking pot very much, so we surrounded ourselves in a haze of marijuana smoke whenever our tight budgets and youthful inability to find it would allow. Our little clique wasn’t really academically or athletically inclined, so the hunt for (and use of) marijuana was the highlight of our otherwise boring teenage existence.

I don’t know if it was the THC’s effect on our young, under-developed brains, but it sure seemed a lot more fun to smoke pot when I was younger. It felt like you actually were using a drug. Now if I smoke reefer, I just get paranoid and ruminate about my eventual death.


I remember one fun reefer time in particular at the Oaks Park amusement park in Portland. It was a hot Saturday night in the middle of summer. Before we went inside to the roller-skating rink, four or five friends and I got high in the gravel parking lot.

After getting thoroughly baked, we joined the long line waiting to get inside the rink. Every innocuous word or facial expression would set us off in gales of laughter - no doubt irritating those around us. Finally, a nerdy guy in his late teens with horned-rimmed glasses --remember this was the late seventies, so horned-rimmed glasses were not yet ironically coo -- had enough. He turned around and said to us, in a very deliberate and nasally voice: "Is the weed still in your sock?"

His comment momentarily had the intended effect of keeping us quiet, until I piped up. "Yes, as a matter of fact, it is!" (It was.) We fell on the floor from laughing, just as we would later fall on the floor from skating.

Over the next year or so, I continued to smoke marijuana as often as I could. When I was a sophomore in high school, my Mom was snooping in my room and found a pack of rolling papers. Judging from my just barely above average grades, I’m pretty sure Mom knew my eyes weren’t red from staying up late at night studying, but now she had hard evidence that I was, as she put it, "using" marijuana.

Mom was so concerned that she made an appointment for us both to see a counselor to discuss my drug use.

Being somewhat of an enlightened kid, I didn’t have any problem with going to a stranger to talk about my "drug problem." In a strange way I was actually looking forward to it.

On the day of the counseling session, Mom parked her car in the lot of the clinic, which was located on Portland’s 82nd Avenue - a street known more for its used car lots than world-class mental health facilities. Before we got out of the car, Mom turned to me and said in a very solemn tone, "Don’t be nervous, Danny. I’m sure the doctor will help us set things right."

"Aw, c’mon Mom, gimme a break!" I replied. (Throughout my teens this statement would be a standard response to a wide spectrum of inquiries by my mother.)

After waiting in the dingy 1950s vintage office the customary thirty minutes after our scheduled appointment time, we were finally ushered in to see the counselor.

A tall fellow in his early thirties got up to greet us from his cluttered desk, "Hi, I’m Jon! That’s Jon with no H." (I wasn’t sure why he felt compelled to point out the missing “H” in his name since it was silent.)

Jon affected what I would now call a post-hippy professional look. His well combed “parted down the middle and feathered back” hair came just to his collar. He was wearing a cotton pastel orange colored leisure suit and a white gauze dress-shirt with a faux Nehru collar. I bet Jon thought it was edgy and fashion-forward, but I, dressed in my Britannia “elephant-bell” jeans and “Chevy” logo t-shirt, did not.

I was sure Mom had filled Jon in on our situation beforehand, even so he asked me for some background information on today’s subject: Me and marijuana.

"So," he said, "Your Mom’s not happy about your pot smoking, huh?"

"No, I guess not," I replied.

I went on to tell him that I had pretty good grades and a job washing dishes at a hospital after school. I also truthfully told him that I got along well with my mom, had friends and, aside from smoking pot, I didn’t drink alcohol or do any other drugs.

Mom jumped right in, "You know doctor…"

"I’m not a doctor, Kathy. I’m a counselor."

"Oh, sorry, doc…er…sir," she continued, "Danny is a good boy, but this marijuana thing is driving me crazy!"

"What is it about Danny’s marijuana use that drives you crazy, Kathy?"

"Well, he comes in the house after hanging out with his friends and his eyes are all red," she said.

"That’s it?" Jon asked.

My Mom didn’t really have much else to say. She couldn’t disagree with my version of my lifestyle because everything I said was true. She couldn’t really come up with a solid reason why the pot smoking bugged her. She even said I was a "good boy"! Now I ask you, why take a “good boy” to a counselor?

(I was reasonably sure my Mom had smoked pot sometime in her not so distant past, so even she knew the Reefer Madness hysteria over the danger of marijuana was way overblown. Therefore, the health effects of marijuana weren’t even discussed that day.)

The three of us talked for another thirty minutes or so about my life and marijuana. Jon seemed particularly intrigued by the fact that I didn’t drink alcohol. I told him I had been drunk before, but didn’t like it. (That would change soon enough of course.)

It was time to hear Jon’s pearls of wisdom and I just about fell out of my chair when he shared his solution to our problem.

"Why not just let Danny smoke marijuana, Kathy?"

Suddenly Jon and his peach colored leisure suit were starting to look a lot cooler.

"What?" my Mom exclaimed. "Doctor, you cannot be serious!"

"Look, I'm not a doctor and you said yourself he’s a good kid. He has a job, his grades are okay and he seems like a well adjusted teenager. Why not let him smoke pot in the house? At least he wouldn’t be doing it outside where he could get in serious trouble."

Ah, the seventies. You gotta love ’em!

"Well, I must say, I’m a little surprised," she said. "I wasn’t expecting this, doc...."

“Kathy, you can just call me Jon," he interjected.

After my enthusiastic endorsement of the plan and some further discussion, Mom actually started to give a little. "Is this normal, Jon?"

"I wouldn’t say it’s normal,” he replied, while raising his hands in the air making quotation marks around the word “normal”. “But in some situations, acceptance and a strict set of rules can be the best way to deal with issues like this. Like I said, Danny seems to be doing fine with his marijuana use, so why not try it and see what happens?"

’But what if Danny’s grades get worse?"

"Then you change the arrangement. You’re the Mom, that’s your prerogative," he replied.

"Well…I suppose we could try it…" she said doubtfully.

Mom's doubt was my delight.

Imagine being a 16 year old stoner kid sitting in a counselor’s office with your Mom on the brink of allowing you to not only smoke pot, but to smoke it in the house! I couldn’t believe my good fortune. When I walked into office an hour earlier, the prospect of the counselor suggesting that I be allowed to smoke weed was as probable as Satan putting dinosaur fossils on Earth to test our faith in Jesus Christ.

I was beside myself with excitement, but I couldn’t let on too much because I didn’t want to jinx anything. I tried to remain calm. Believe me, it was tough.

After coming up with ground rules (which were basically: I could smoke pot in the house until I was told I couldn’t anymore), we finished up the conversation and headed for the door. My Mom started wavering a bit as we left the office, "I don’t know Jon. This seems a little strange."

"Well, Kathy, like I said, you can always change the rules of the arrangement."

We made a follow-up appointment in a month to check in and we were out the door.

I was in a daze as I walked to the car and it seemed like my Mom was too. I think our thoughts were coming from a completely different place however. While I couldn’t wait to tell my friends the news, I’m guessing my Mom was thinking, “What the hell have I just done?"

When we got back in the car, I was tempted to ask Mom to drop by the Head East, the head shop on Division Street so I could pick up a new bong to celebrate my good fortune, but I thought better of it. I didn’t want to wreck everything right off the bat. The best plan would be to take it slow. Besides, I didn’t have any weed to smoke anyway.

But I was getting paid next week.

After getting home, I immediately called my buddy Jeff and gave him the news bulletin: “Dude, my Mom’s letting me smoke weed!” He was very surprised and happy for us both.

When I got paid the following Friday, I immediately set about getting some pot to test my Mom’s new policy. It still seemed unreal to me that I would be allowed to smoke marijuana at home. I wasn’t going to believe it until I had the bong in my hand and smoke billowing out of my lungs.

After I took a bus out to my pot dealer Keith’s house (an older cousin of a friend of mine) and secured my bag of weed, I went to Head East to buy a new bong.

As I stood in the incense drenched head shop and inspected the selection of “water pipes” (if you called them bongs, they would kick you out of the store), my eyes were drawn to a squat ceramic bong with a storage trough around the bowl for your stash. Aside from its bright red color (and equally bright yellow trim), the coolest thing about the bong was a clear plastic window held in place with a rubber washer that allowed you to see the smoke fill the bong before it filled your lungs. I was a bit concerned about the price ($39) and the fragile nature of the ceramic, but I figured it would take quite a fall to break the bong, so I bought it. With the new bong in hand and the weed tucked in my sock, I went home to test my new-found freedom.

I was a bit nervous to smoke pot at home for the first time, but I figured there was no better way to go about it than to just fire up. I rushed past my Mom and went right upstairs to the bathroom to fill my new bong with water. Soon I was in my room stuffing a big brown bud in the bowl and sparking up.

By this time I had been stoned scores (if not hundreds) of times before, so in most ways the experience was not anything new. There was one major difference however: my Mom was downstairs watching Phil Donahue.

After getting high and hanging out in my room listening to Rush’s opus 2112, I got the munchies and headed downstairs to the kitchen to grab something to eat. I passed by my Mom sitting in her usual spot at the end of the couch, made eye contact with her and meekly smiled. She looked back at me with a look that said either, “What kind of mother am I?” or “I hope that kid doesn’t eat all the Oreos.”

My friends were quite pleased with my being able to smoke pot at home because now we didn’t have to sneak around to get high. Soon enough, there was a parade of my stoner buddies going up to my room after school getting high and listening to our favorite hard rock and heavy metal hits.

I guess I was too stoned to notice that Mom was doing a slow burn at the ongoing ritual of me and my friends traipsing by her roost in the living room on our way out to the convenience store to get Hostess Suzy-Qs, Ruffles potato chips and the like. I flew close to the warm sun and soon the arrangement soon began to melt away.

First, she would not allow friends over on weeknights to smoke pot. Then after a week or so she realized that maybe it probably wasn’t such a good idea to have other people’s 16 year-old kids over to smoke marijuana. Consequently, my friends were barred from smoking pot at the house. Thankfully, I still could.

We went back to see Jon for the follow-up session soon after the rule changes went into effect and he fully agreed with Mom’s decisions to curtail the teen pot party.

Since I couldn’t have my pals over to smoke, I figured I would up the ante a bit by asking her if I could grow some pot at home. I think Mom felt a little guilty about changing the arrangement, so she acquiesced to my request to set-up a grow room in my bedroom closet.

With earnings from my after school job, I began procuring the necessary items for a marijuana garden. The first item on my list was The Marijuana Grower’s Guide by Ed Rosenthal. Next, I went to the department store to get a florescent grow light and the necessary soil and pot (planter). The hip clerk in the Fred Meyer garden department knew the score when the scraggly stoner kid stepped up to buy the indoor horticulture hardware. “Doing some home gardening?” she asked with a knowing smile.

“Yes, as a matter of fact I am.”

“Are they green tomato-ish looking things?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact they are!” I replied with a laugh.

Within weeks I had a pot plant growing in my bedroom closet. In a couple months the properly pruned female plant was close to three feet tall. When the plant bloomed I would be blessed with lots of tasty mind-numbing buds. Of course being an impatient 16 year old, that would never happen. Long before the plant would ever flower, I harvested it. In the end I got nothing more than a quarter ounce of weak-ass shake leaves.

With the plant gone and my friends no longer able to come over to get high, you would think that things would have cooled down for Mom. They didn’t. Maybe it was my stoned out bachelor pad bedroom that rattled her.

In addition to the requisite rock posters on the walls (I was particularly proud of the two dozen or so Creem magazine centerfolds that I had tightly arranged on one wall), I had a black light, a Lava-Lamp and a bean-bag chair that I would recline in while I listened to music on my headphones. These accruements, combined with the small coffee table next to my bed that held my prized ceramic bong, a stainless steel pot tray and matching stash container (appropriated from the kitchen at work), didn’t sit too well with Mom. “It looks like a Middle Eastern opium den in here, Danny!” she said one day in one of her better moods.

Finally, she snapped.

About 4 months into the arrangement, I came home from school and found my Mom in a snit. She was upstairs huffing and puffing about something and I made a sassy and satirical remark. The squabble soon escalated and suddenly without warning she stepped into my room, grabbed my $39 bong ($140 in 2012 dollars) and smashed it down on the coffee table next to my bed. The bright red and yellow pieces (and the grungy water inside) went flying around my room like a stinky wet ceramic fireworks explosion. Before the last pieces hit the ground she exclaimed, “That’s it, you son of a bitch! No more marijuana in this house!”

“Mom, do you realize what you just called yourself?” I said smugly.

After mulling her statement over for a few seconds she replied, “Oh, dammit Danny! Clean this mess up!”

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