For many years, I was God’s Own Stoner.
Marijuana flat-out cured me of a near-fatal alcoholism when I was thirty, and it became a convenient way to make more than a few dollars when the banking gig fell through in late 1980s.
I was working for an alternative newsweekly in New Jersey when I was offered a weekly column about weed.
I thought it was a silly thing to write a weekly column about, but I needed the money so I said yes, and two years later I interviewed George Carlin for my first High Times cover story.
HT hired me the same year my daughter was born, and I raised my kid as a single dad as I rose up through the ranks of the number one marijuana magazine in the world.
As you might imagine, it was a pretty sweet gig.
I was a wake-and-bake warrior long before there were words for such a thing, and I used to say that the quantity of my cannabis consumption hadn’t really increased when I landed my job at the magazine, but the quality of my weed smoking shot through the roof!
In the fullness of time, God’s Own Stoner became the associate publisher of High Times magazine.
A very sweet gig indeed.
When she was very young it was easy to keep the two worlds apart, but as she grew older I began to realize that these spheres were really angling towards each other and would eventually collide.
I knew intuitively that a pot-smoking parent should stay invisible because, back then in New Jersey, they took your kids away for that sort of thing; but invisibility was not an option for me.
As my daughter approached her tweens there were already too many videos on YouTube of God’s Own Stoner blazing away as if he were born to the task.
It was only a matter of time before my daughter or one of her friends figured it out. But I thought that Dylan had a right to know what her dad did for a living and, anyway, her dad was proud of what he did.
So I decided to tell my daughter the truth.
It wasn’t a decision I had made out of conviction as much as it was forged from necessity.
If I hadn’t been a public pot-smoker the subject would have never come up, and I would have happily spent her youth doing bong hits in my bedroom behind closed doors.
Honestly, at the time, I wasn’t sure that telling her the truth was a good idea – there were so many ways this could go wrong – but it seemed to be the best option at the time.
In hindsight, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, the faceted nature of truth and its many shades of grey would become one of the major issues facing my 21st Century child as she came of age, and exposing the lies surrounding cannabis turned out to be an excellent primer for her modern world.
I would have never known that if I hadn’t been forced to tell the truth.
Telling the truth about weed added an extra layer of honesty to our relationship, and if she believes me now about anything, it’s largely because I told her the truth when it would have been easier to lie.
Fundamentally, crucially, the grey-clad facts surrounding this ancient plant gave my daughter her first real look at fuzzy truths from the other side, and provided her with the opportunity to develop a finely-tuned, state-of-the-art, 21st Century bullshit meter.
Still, I wanted to be clear.
For her twelfth birthday I took her to dinner to the Waldorf Astoria.
She was dressed as if she arrived from the past in a plum lace dress and a silk top hat.
I wore the black suit I kept around for funerals and court, a white-starched shirt and a wine-colored tie.
We dined at Peacock Alley, the storied bistro inside the hotel that was named for the mirrored promenade where women of another era would strut their feathers on a Sunday afternoon.
Everything about that night was made special by design, and over a rich dessert comprised of three kinds of ice cream I broached the tender subject:
“Okay. Let me ask you a question. Do I smoke pot?”
“Duh!” she snarked, scarfing up the s’cream without missing a beat.
“Actually, I don’t,” I gently replied.
She looked up from her dessert puzzled and said “¿Por que?”
“I stopped smoking marijuana on your birthday, and I’m not going to smoke it for the foreseeable future.”
“Why not?” she asked, genuinely perplexed.
“Because I want to show you that smoking marijuana is not important. Understand me, kid, I’m very lucky. What I do for a living is important. Fighting for your rights is important. Making sure sick people get medicine is important. Standing up for something you believe in is very important,” I told my twelve year old.
“But smoking marijuana is not important. There are plenty of fine, noble, admirable people who have never smoked pot and never will. Smoking pot,” I said, “is not for everyone.
“You know I don’t think kids should smoke pot, and you know why, right?”
She nodded. We had already had that conversation.
This was a deeper dive.
“Has anyone ever offered you marijuana?”
“Well, someday soon that’s going to change. Somebody is going to offer you weed, and when that happens I won’t be there. When that happens…” – I paused for emphasis – “I want you say ‘No. Do you understand?”
“I don’t want you to think that what I do for a living means that you have my automatic approval to smoke marijuana when it’s offered. I don’t think it’s for kids.”
I then told my daughter what I wasn’t talking about.
“It’s not because I think there’s anything wrong with it. There isn’t. It’s not because I don’t like it anymore. I do. Smoking marijuana has been a very positive experience in my life, but that’s not true for everyone.
“And I’m not stopping because I’m afraid of getting arrested. It’s a little too late for that.”
She smiled and said, “Yeah!”
“It’s not because I got tired of it or because I started getting paranoid or because I can’t afford it. A lot of people stop for those reasons and more, but that not why I’m stopping.
“I’m no longer smoking marijuana simply because I want to give you an example of not smoking marijuana. It’s not for kids, and it’s not a big deal one-way or the other. I want to show you that. As long as you don’t smoke marijuana, I won’t smoke marijuana. Marijuana’s not important. You’re important.”
She said nothing.
“Dylan, look at me.”
She stopped eating her ice cream, put down her spoon and met my eyes.
“I don’t care about marijuana. I don’t care about High Times. I don’t care about the law. I care about you. Nothing is as important to me as you. Do you understand?”
“Yep,” she said blithely, picked up her spoon and went back to devouring her dessert. I watched her for a few moments, not quite a young woman but clearly no longer a child.
“You don’t care about any of this, do you?”
“Not really,” she quipped scraping the bottom of the bowl.
“Good. That’s just what I want to hear.”
Next: Owl Farm