Closets have a bad rep and well-deserved. They’re dark and musty, monsters dwell in them and too frequently, nice folks-people just like you and me-are forced to take up residence until such time as they can escape.
I have spent most of my adult life, securely entrenched in the cannabis closet, comforted only by the sheer numbers of those who were also similarly situated. There were so many of us within our own respective closets here in NorCal, that we actually formed our own microcosmic culture, one in which the concept of the cannabis closet did not exist.
|Amber at the 2014 Emerald Cup|
On the contrary, our community has always extolled the virtues of the gentle giant of herbs, in stark contrast to the established order, thus at least providing some balance in our lives. Sure, we had to play the game whenever we were outside the boundaries of our community, but that was not such a huge price to pay, not when one considers the benefits derived from cannabis.
For me it has always served as medicine for my as-of-yet undiagnosed mood spectrum disorder. Cannabis helped keep some distance between me and the ceiling, a venue I seem to gravitate towards most days of my life.
Then, when the opposite occurs and I plummet, with the bottomless pit of depression beckoning me downward, cannabis stops the descent. This is not conjecture on my part-this is reality.
Existing as it were in two dimensions, there were times when I was caught in the middle between my own personal values and beliefs, and those of the established order, the original order, the only order in our small community for as far back as anyone could remember.
This established way of things did not have room for cannabis nor those who partook of it.
When I entered the field of education, pressed into service by the needs of not only my three sons, but the needs of my community when our little education collective was threatened, I took a large step away from the comfort of my community closet.
I crossed over and into the world of the established order, and nowhere is it more prominently displayed, than it is in the school system. There is zero tolerance for acceptance of cannabis in this venue, despite the fact that many of those associated with the district, also dwell in the cannabis closet.
I couldn't spend any time worrying about the dichotomy which presented itself, because I was in it for the money. I was in it because I wanted that paycheck and that medical coverage, and I wanted out of the construction field that was creating more and more personal physical issues as I aged.
So I recognized that to even consider cracking that cannabis closet door, was to quickly lose all of that security. Besides, as anyone who has ever taught knows, there is no way one can indulge in the herb with any degree of frequency, because it’s not possible.
I should qualify that by saying it was not possible for me to teach language arts full-time in the middle school, and indulge at all. I had no access, no time to gain access and too many days when we left for school while it was still dark, and returned after nightfall had arrived.
Exactly when was I supposed to indulge?
The official mantra of the team-taught classroom that Paul and I operated, was “Make wise choices.” The reefer madness school of thought competed with the just-say-no nonsense, for winner of the ridiculous award, while our slogan rang far more true.
“Which is preferable if you want to experiment with weed?” we would ask. “Staying at home with friends, when no one is leaving the premises for any reason, or on, say, a field trip to Yosemite, when getting caught means calling your parents to come and get you? That’s a mighty long time to spend in the car with your parents, if they are mad at you.”
With all of this foundation in place, I must now admit that as one who straddled the line, I missed out on the chance to do some serious bridge-building between the two sides: the established order, and those who dwelt in the cannabis closet.
I had that golden opportunity in the palm of my hand upon the occasion of my oldest son’s eighth grade graduation, but I fumbled it away in the most clumsy of manners.
The stage was set when Elina announced that her parents were allowing her to throw a party, clearly THE graduation event of the season and one that most everyone wanted to attend. Naturally that included Casey, leaving me in what I perceived to be an awkward spot.
|I taught Casey to question authority, but to do so with a smile.|
Because it was known that both alcohol and cannabis would be present, I simply said that it was not an appropriate environment for Casey be in, and left it at that. We’d been down this road before, and whereas the boys all knew that I had been a willing cannabis participant in the past, that was then and this was now.
I would not jeopardize my position in the district, by even remotely associating myself with any aspect of the evil weed.
Interestingly enough, I now realize two things: I was dead wrong and the kids could have nailed me to the wall with my own mantra. All they had to do was point out that I was violating my own principle of what constituted an appropriate environment for experimentation.
The proposed party had all the essential ingredients: It was to be chaperoned by responsible adults, no one was to be allowed to leave in any circumstances but those which were deemed safe and there was a good reason to celebrate in the first place.
All of this sailed clear over my inflated head as Ariel confronted me in the classroom that day, with maybe five minutes to go until lunchtime. I missed out on the chance to practice what I preached.
“So, Mr O, are you going to let Casey attend Elina’s party?” Ella had the collective attention of the rest of the class.
“Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies,” I tried, figuring I’d run levity up the flagpole first, to see if anyone saluted it.
“No. Seriously. Are you?” she persisted, taking advantage of the fact that I had always encouraged students to question my authority, so long as they did so respectfully. I was always glad to answer clarifying questions in an open environment of candor and honesty.
“Fine, I will answer the question in front of the class, if that’s what you’d like, but you’re not going to like what I say. It’s been made clear that alcohol is going to be made available [a keg of beer was rumored to be on order] and that doesn’t work for me.
Eighth grade is too young for kids to be getting smashed. I’m sorry. I must set age-appropriate boundaries for Casey, and this is one of them.”
Never was I more dead-wrong. What about the possibility that Casey would choose not to participate in adult activities? Or how about he did so responsibly, without getting trashed? Or how about he did what he wanted and I didn’t find out? As long as he followed the directive to remain at the party, all should have been good-to-go.
Why didn’t Elina or Ariel-or Casey for that matter-rub my mantra in my face? Why didn’t one of them point out that the party met the criteria for acceptable experimentation, criteria that I had established?
Further discussion was eventually interrupted by the bell, and that was that.
It has taken me a decade to reach the conclusion that I screwed up, and of course, it has been scintillating to watch Casey lead the political charge here in Mendocino County for regulation of cannabis.
He has done more for those of us trying to escape that closet than anyone else I know, and I feel bad for not having recognized that I had the perfect forum for the application of making wise choices, and I blew it.
I take solace in the fact that the pupil has become the mentor.