PITTSFIELD — When I saw the story written by my colleague Amanda Drane about the Pittsfield City Council’s Ordinances and Rules Committee voting not to cap the number of marijuana dispensaries in the city, I knew we had won. By “we,” I mean Baby Boomers.
Thanks to our sheer numbers, Boomers have had a redefining effect on virtually every aspect of American life. We are the selfish generation, and as soon as our wants and needs emerge, they are quickly met by an barrage of TV ads for erectile dysfunction remedies, adult diapers and utopian retirement schemes. Surgeons complain they can’t keep up with the tidal wave of joint-replacement demands.
Nowhere is the cultural shift wrought by Boomers more dramatic than in the realm of pot legalization — both medical and recreational. With age, we find ourselves battling arthritis and other causes of chronic pain. In light of the opioid epidemic, marijuana now emerges as a far safer remedy — and possibly even a miracle antidote.
Probably no single work had more lasting influence on the way America thought of marijuana than “Reefer Madness,” the 1936 film that monumentalized the drug as the social predator that would, if left unchecked, destroy American life as we knew it. Here’s the opening crawl:
“The motion picture you are about to witness may startle you. It would not have been possible, otherwise, to sufficiently emphasize the frightful toll of the new drug menace which is destroying the youth of America in alarmingly increasing numbers. Marihuana (sic) is that drug — a violent narcotic — an unspeakable scourge — The Real Public Enemy Number One!”
The film goes on to try to scare the bejeezus out of parents and kids by dramatizing how the drug transforms otherwise mild-mannered young people into wild-eyed, amoral psychotics.
Vestiges of the movie’s impact abound. There are towns, for example, that have chosen to impose moratoriums on marijuana growth, production and sales in a rear-guard effort to prevent “that element” from overtaking their tidy communities. Towns that, by the way, have no problem accommodating liquor stores.
You can still find examples of “that element” around. Sometimes they are hunched, moving carefully with help from a cane or walker. They may sport an earring or three. These are the hippies of yesteryear — remember, 2017 was the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love.” If you don’t know what that was, Google it.
Sessions still scared
The Feds still need to catch up — the DEA classifies cannabis along with heroin and LSD as a Schedule 1 drug, and apparently our attorney general, Jeff Sessions, hasn’t opened his eyes since he first scrunched them shut upon viewing “Reefer Madness.”
But politicians have heeded us, and history shows that what Boomers want, they tend to get. So when civic leaders talk about the economic benefits of producing and selling pot and making it as widely available as possible, Boomers marvel at how far this country has come over the span of a single lifetime.
And we’re not done yet; Father Time persists in inflicting his ravages. Mark my words: After we’ve succeeded in erasing their stigma, death with dignity laws are next on the agenda.