Let's Talk About Cannabis in California
A need for honesty about addiction in the wake of new cannabis laws.
IN MARIN MAGAZINE, it might seem like we are dedicating an abundance of space to cannabis these days. And maybe we are. In a county plagued by all kinds of substance abuse, responsible reporting is something we take seriously.
A few years ago after publishing a roundup review of Marin dive bars, I received a Facebook message from an unhappy reader. He felt that by glorifying these businesses we were not being sensitive to the fact that many people in our community struggle with alcohol addiction. Just like that, my bubble was burst. I had recently discovered Smitty’s and the Silver Peso, and while the names had been familiar to me for years, I had never been to either. Why? On reflection, I was likely intimidated by the idea of being a stranger in a crowd of insiders and of hanging out in a smoky dive. Eventually, no-smoking laws were passed and after some time I finally ventured into Smitty’s and enjoyed a few pathetic attempts to play pool as the sound system blasted “Gimme Shelter” by the Stones. Combined with five-dollar vodka drinks, the experience was too fun not to share. That was what inspired writer Calin Van Paris and me to explore and write about six longtime local watering holes — the story that brought the Facebook message.
I admit, I do like wine at the end of the day. This fact was made public in the hallways of St. Hilary’s during second grade back-to-school night several years back. “My mom loves wine,” read the words in the art project, scribbled in the earnest hand of my then 7-year-old. While other kids wrote things like “My mom loves me, my brother and Jesus,” my daughter Natalie went for the laugh. And as my kids got older and I foresaw high school and potential teen drinking on the horizon, I tried to explain to them that I really didn’t start to drink until I had kids, which is true.
To encourage conversations on potential alcohol and drug abuse, we have published various articles such as one on teen binge drinking (2013), prescription drugs and kids (2016) and most recently, Anna McNamara’s account of her struggle in parenting both her children through their decisions to go to rehab.
Back to cannabis. This month’s “Where There’s Smoke: A primer on pot’s new golden age” turned out even better than I had hoped. The author, Zack Ruskin, new to us as a features writer, has a column on pot in SF Weekly and is well versed on the topic. So he was a natural choice for the task of walking readers through the basics of this newly legalized drug. Personally, I need help knowing how much and what I could be ingesting, because so far I’ve managed to either overdo dosage (I blame the tasty cookies and slow creep of the effects) or, more often than not, under-dose, as in, when I popped a fraction of an edible in my mouth, hoping for sleep or pain reduction, I didn’t really feel anything. In any case, I am intrigued by the science of cannabis and how it can improve our lives. We hope you enjoy Ruskin’s useful article.
Taking addiction concerns to heart, I contacted Matt Willis, our county’s public health officer, whom we interviewed in this month’s issue regarding opioids in Marin. He sees the downsides of drug and alcohol use more than most people do. On the topic of pot, he states, “There’s a lot we don’t know about the health effects of cannabis in the strengths and forms it’s being consumed today. We need to remain open and let our assumptions be challenged — on both sides, based on what we’re learning as we go forward.” With that in mind we’ll do our best to provide education as well as to hold a mirror up to ourselves and the community. As always, let’s keep the conversation going. We’d love to hear from you.