As someone who has never tried marijuana, many would disqualify me from having an opinion. I cannot say how it affects the mind. I cannot calibrate the intensity of the experience nor compare it with smoking or alcohol. Thus, many would say that I am a killjoy who has no right to deprive others of an experience they seem to enjoy.
As a baby boomer, I certainly had every opportunity to try marijuana. It was everywhere at the public school and university I attended. I knew others who indulged and saw them high. I know well the acrid smell of the weed. And yet something held me back. As a result, I never smoked—or inhaled.
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Thus, I would like to suggest that the reasons why I did not indulge can be the same as those that can be employed to explain why marijuana should not be used. In adopting this negative approach, I will not bring up the classical arguments that are normally raised. I will not enter into the health risks since I was never threatened. I will not mention it as a gateway drug since I never crossed that threshold.
Indeed, my reasons have nothing to do with marijuana. I will merely recount why, through no special merit of my own, I did not try it.
Marijuana Is Illegal
The first reason why I never tried marijuana is one that is fast eroding, but it did play a role in my reluctance. I was taken aback by the fact that marijuana was illegal.
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In my case, I sensed that doing something illegal would commit me to acts that would erode an order to which I belonged. Developing an illegal habit would wear away my sense of right and wrong. Not even the rebelliousness of youth could convince me to overcome the bad feeling that comes from deliberately breaking the law in a major way.
The secret nature of these acts only served to underscore that they were wrong. By accepting to smoke this illegal weed, I would have been entering into a world that disregarded the law. This world beckoned me to live a double life where I would put on the façade of someone who lived by the law, while behind the scenes I violated it. I did not want to live this false life.
I also did not want to disrespect the law because, in those turbulent times, the law represented some kind of order. I could not help but associate the defiant act of smoking pot with the college radicals (whom I opposed) who wanted to destroy the America I loved.
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Social Reason for Not Trying
My second reason for refusing marijuana involved the social institutions that surrounded me. These influences played a major role in creating expectations and tempering my passions, both of which kept me from indulging.
A strong Catholic family life played an enormous role in this decision. The family creates an intense social atmosphere that diminishes the desire for extreme and powerful outside stimuli. Thus, I believe the affection and activities of the family helped engage me in fulfilling activities far from the “mind-blowing” weed.
My family also had expectations for me that would have been jeopardized by my indulgence. If caught, I felt I would have brought dishonor to my family and disappointment to my parents. These sentiments were a strong discouragement. Their positive expectations were also a strong encouragement to engage in other, more constructive behaviors that were incompatible with pot use.
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Similarly, institutions such as the school, youth group, community, parish, and others had analogous effects upon my decision. This influence impacted and saved me even though the institutions themselves were being destroyed during the 1960s.
The sixties taught people to “Do your own thing.” Thankfully, in my life, there were those from these social institutions who pointed out another way—beyond self—to “Do the right thing.”
Attachment to a Culture
There was a cultural reason that prevented my trying marijuana. It is more than just a consumer choice. When confronted with the decision, I vaguely perceived that marijuana was attached to a culture that I was not willing to join.v
Like everyone in my generation, the pop culture had already pushed me in the direction of pot with its music, fashions, art, and the examples of rock stars who glorified its use.
The promises of pleasure were immense. By taking the step of smoking marijuana, I knew I would instantly catapult into a fantasy world. It would facilitate the immoral relationships of the Sexual Revolution then raging. It could immerse me, if I so desired, in an “anything goes” culture in which I would not need to respect any law save my own.
A culture surrounded pot usage. That culture included those who became brain-fried potheads. It led to the hippy lifestyle that dictated a manner of being, dressing, and living. I realized that I would then be giving up the remnants of the Christian culture I enjoyed. Thus, I did not take the plunge.
A Religious Reason
Finally, there was a religious reason why I did not try marijuana. It involved my precarious link with God and the Church that managed to survive the sixties. I cannot help but feel the protection of Providence kept me from so many dangers. When confronted with the temptation to indulge, the voice of grace directed me elsewhere.
The 1960s were times of immense gratification of all passions—and marijuana was part of that idolization of the pursuit of fun, pleasure, and excitement. The 1960s were also times of incredible spiritual devastation. I suspect this devastation led some to escape spiritual affliction by resorting to drugs.
Marijuana can indeed provide pleasure, but it can never offer the meaning and purpose that the soul intensely craves.
Thus, I sensed but did not feel the great affliction—despair even—of an empty God-forsaken culture. In that spiritual wasteland, I saw many who suffered from lives without meaning or purpose. Fortunately, by the grace of God, I found solace in the Church that teaches us how to suffer and deal with life. An intense spiritual life centered around the Blessed Mother, the sacraments, and Our Lord offers infinitely more than anything the pop culture can offer—including marijuana. I saw the futility of seeking after those empty pleasures that marijuana tries to supply.
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These are the four reasons why I never tried marijuana. They may not have been as clearly thought out in my mind at the time. Not everyone will have traveled the same road as I did. Not all who have tried marijuana will have suffered the final consequences that I foresaw. However, the marijuana culture remains and has even become mainstream.
By listing these reasons, I hope to show that the use of marijuana is above all a moral issue which creates its own culture. Opposing this culture will involve legal, social, cultural, and religious institutions inside society that would govern our acts and passions.
The most effective way to deal with the issue is not through laws, although they may be needed. Real solutions involve the culture. The best way to deal with marijuana is to cultivate those moral values and essential institutions that would empty out the desire for strong external stimuli. These same means would help in the building of networks of affection and support for the lonely individual who often resorts to substance abuse when forced to deal with a cruel world. Above all, real solutions call for rejecting the “Do your own thing” paradigm. More than that, they call for a turning to God. After all, we were created to know, love, and serve him.