In the Summer of Love, 1967, I was an awkward 12-year-old girl on the brink of wanting to become either a nun or a hippie. Being born in San Francisco was my first blessing in life, so there I was, a curious adolescent, observing this new breed of young person invading our city. We lived in the Richmond District, not far from Golden Gate Park, and how well I recall seeing my first gathering of the tribe — a free concert in the Panhandle part of the park. My Republican father and I were driving past when a group of hippies walked in front of our car and I was stunned. They looked so free, so happy. Looking at the guys with long hair, my father simply stated, “You can’t tell the boys from the girls anymore.” I was instantly intrigued.
As we embark upon the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love I am reminded of those early days of getting high. “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out” was the motto of our generation, and by the time I was 14, I was exploring all three of those options. I would have been a fully blossomed flower child if I’d run away to the Haight Ashbury district of town, where all the hippies lived, but how could I run away when I lived so close already? Even without cell phones in those days, my parents would have found me in a moment.
And so I lived the double life of a Catholic school girl and a barefoot flower child. I discovered marijuana at 14, in the basement of a neighbor boy while his garage band was playing some really basic rock n’ roll. It was Mexican rag weed, harsh and full of seeds and stems, and it made me feel naughty more than anything else. But it was worth trying again, and if it could teach me to be as free spirited as the hippies I observed all around me, I was game. Plus, it really did seem like more fun than being a nun.
Cannabis and I became best friends immediately. A few days later, I scored my first “lid” (a loose baggy with about two fingers worth of scraggy weed) from a friend’s older brother. How guilty I felt carrying that little bag on the bus home from school that day, as if there was a shining light right on it. Yet, it felt right, and the guilt passed away quickly. I decided I needed to roll my own joints, so I locked myself in my bathroom at home and went through a whole package of orange Zig Zags until I got it right. Now I was ready to be a bona fide flower child.
Saturday afternoons would often start with rolling up a bunch of joints and putting them in the pockets of my brocade-patched blue jeans or a flouncy tie-dyed skirt. I’d say goodbye to my mother and head out, walk a few blocks away, and put out my thumb. Hitchhiking was a different sport back then — it still felt safe and was always sure to get you a ride and often a fascinating introduction. The first ride of the day could easily turn into a full experience until dusk, when I needed to report back home. Oddly, my parents never seemed to think that I could get into trouble in the daylight.
Smoking pot and sharing joints, or “numbers” as we also called them, was a bond that brought together the emerging tribe. Many weekends I’d hear the beats of distant rock n’ roll out my window and knew there must be a concert in the park. I’d get dressed in my most colorful clothes and roll up some joints, then, as I did every day, I’d pluck a Cecile Brunner rose from the bush in front of our house and stick it behind my ear. It was part of the official hippie costume, and I was proud to wear it.
While discreetly smoking a joint, I’d stroll up to the park and follow the music. Thousands of beautiful glowing young folks would be there, dancing with arms in the air or sitting in groups laughing — doing whatever they wanted to do. It was like the old Animals song, “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want.” When you have messages like that coming into young impressionable ears, it can change a generation, and it did.
Sharing joints, I’d meet people all day while following my bliss. It’s what hippies did. While I certainly do not condone 14 year olds getting high, it was my path and it was the time, and it was my greatest teacher. She still is. As I matured into a young woman, I watched myself open up to the world, from the shy young Catholic girl to a free-thinking individual with a penchant for enjoying life. Cannabis taught me that life is meant to be appreciated and explored and so much more. I’d made my choice, and there was never a consideration of not being a fan of Mother Marijuana.
Over time, as the imported weed became sophisticated sensimillia, I likewise developed my taste buds and knowledge of the sacred plant. I guess you could say we grew up together. But I never, ever would have guessed that someday I’d be able to celebrate cannabis openly, the way I can today. How could I have imagined a dispensary or a Cannabis Cup? We thought it was a pipe dream that someday the police would look the other way when we smoked openly on the streets.
I find it very reassuring to know the hippie movement has made so many deeply significant changes to the very fabric of our society. From health food and yoga to the fight to liberate cannabis, the transformation is becoming more apparent everyday. What began as some innocent youth sharing joints on sunny days in the park has blossomed into the beginning of the Aquarian Age. Dig it.
TELL US, how did you discover cannabis?