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Baby Boomers: A Long History With Cannabis

A 3x5 image of a woman in the 60s puffing on a joint while her friend watches on in conservative Texas.


Baby Boomers: A Long History With Cannabis

A personal reflection on the legacy of Baby Boomers in cannabis culture and policy.

Forty-five years of smoking pot. D*mn. I never imagined back then that I would find myself here. “Here” being a 62-year-old balding and finally short-haired-again old geezer looking back at the old days. D*mn. How time (and life) flies.

And great googliemooglie! All the pot I have smoked over those years. It boggles my mind. I do think that after 45 years I’m finally getting the hang of it. Back then it was all about the high. Now, bless the high, but I hurt in places I didn’t know I had. Cannabis is my front line treatment for aches and pains.

We lived through a president’s assassination and a presidential candidate’s assassination. We witnessed the nation’s leading civil rights activist’s assassination. From my house I watched Watts burn in 1965. The hippies faced rioting cops in Chicago in 1968. Women began burning bras and 18-year-olds burned draft cards.

But while assassinations and riots and the Vietnam War all roiled on, people were discovering grass. Yes, “grass” was common terminology. And it was creeping into the American fabric. Rock and roll saw to that. Rock and rollers brought the good herb to the notice of the common citizen and the young folks took the ball and ran with it.

Feminists march in the street carrying signs demanding equality in the 60s.

Although cannabis prohibition began in 1937 with the Marihuana Tax Act, President Richard Nixon gave us the Drug War back in 1971 and it has been an underhanded, dirty war that still rages today, although the end is finally in sight.

The Baby Boomer generation (often fondly referred to as “the worst generation”) grooved our way through the  ’60s and ’70s and hid from the discos in the ’80s, by then we had families, bought homes and started businesses. Some of us even cut our hair, but we continued to smoke our herb.

While we recreated with cannabis the government was building an anti-cannabis juggernaut. Cops arrested us as part of that growing Drug War behemoth. Tens of millions of us have been arrested, harassed and generally labeled as lazy couch sitting layabouts in a non-stop campaign of anti-pot propaganda. Some of us, like Peter McWilliams and others, lost their lives.

A certain black president and a record medal winning Olympic swimmer have since killed the “amotivation syndrome” voices.

And somehow along the way we’ve not just reconciled our use in spite of the cannabis bigotry so carefully nurtured by the prohibition bureaucracy, but we have also unleashed the power of cannabis medicine on a society desperate for safe and effective pain relief.

No generational group better knows cannabis than the Baby Boomers. We will testify (gladly!) about the beneficence of our ancient, wonderful friend cannabis.

The list of prominent geezers in the cannabis movement would be quite long so I’ll skip naming them. You all know who you are and so do a lot of us others. We thank you, oh great old farts!

We are where we are in the cannabis movement (and it is one movement however segregated we think we might be into medical, industrial and recreational cliques) because those stoned dancing (using that term loosely) hippies are now anxiously waiting for that day when the sun rises and we are no longer criminals.

We will no longer have to keep repeating, “Free the weed!” because we will have finally freed the weed. In a sense, cannabis saved us and very literally we have saved it.

Had we not explored the plant cannabis, utilized it in multiple ways and forms, we would not be who we are as a generation. In many ways, cannabis defines us and we it. The calm and compassion of cannabis made us the generation that learned to love nature again. We embraced racial and cultural diversity. We argued for and utilized systems like mass transit, recycling and non-polluting energy alternatives.

And now we stand, saying, “We’ve paid our dues. We’ve traveled a long road and are now grandparents. We are your elders and we say that cannabis is our medicine! We have the science. We will testify to the medical efficacy, not as ‘anecdotal’ but as citizens of a once free nation we will declare under oath that indeed, our medical use of cannabis is fact.”

The old ’60s and ’70s hippies, the dreamers and yes the stoners, have put up with vilification, persecution and outright bigotry. We’ve managed to bear the brunt of the largest government in the world’s decades long battle against what is simply and humbly a personal choice.

As a nearly century long campaign of deceitful propaganda against what is truly one of earth’s most bountiful and useful species of plant winds to an end and cannabigotry is replaced with cannalove, remember that cannabis is about caring and about compassion.

As my favorite elder statesman of cannabis, Willie Nelson, puts it:

“I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If he put it here and he wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?” 

Originally published in Issue 11 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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