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I grew up in upstate New York in the 60s and 70s. I first saw marijuana when I was around 10-years-old. I found a bag of weed in one of my older brother's friend's car. It was a garbage bag full of pot. I didn't smoke any, but I knew what it was from the war on drugs propaganda that was being fed to us in school.
A few years later, when I was around 12 or 13, I went camping with some friends, and one of them had a joint and proceeded to smoke it around the campfire. He was a few years older than me and he didn't share. It did not seem dangerous to me at the time.
When I was 15, a friend of mine from school told me he smoked pot and that it was great. He was a foster kid from New York City, and he said the kids he was living with could get me some pot, so I bought a joint in the boy's room at school. I smoked it that night and didn't feel any different. I might have smoked it again, but some kids I knew saw me buy the joint and started saying I was a drug addict, so I quit smoking. Two years later, when I was 17, the kids who said I was a drug addict were smoking weed, so I tried it again. Still did not get high. I smoked it once more with the same result. Then one evening, I was riding bikes with some friends and one of them had a joint. We smoked it by the side of the road, and everything looked different. Colors were brighter and objects seemed to stand out in a way I had never noticed before. It felt good. I was high.
That summer, I smoked whenever I could. I was making new friends, stoner friends. I had always felt like an outsider in school, but during my senior year, I was more popular thanks to weed.
I joined the Navy after high school, and continued to smoke pot. I tried cocaine and pills, but didn't like them much. I preferred pot. I was drinking beer and alcohol by this time, but didn't like the hangovers. I never got a hangover from pot, or had a bad trip.
The first problem I had with pot was when I was in school in the the Navy. The barracks inspectors found some burnt seeds in an ashtray in my room and searched my locker. They found a bag of some good green in there. So I was busted and kicked out of school, then sent to a ship in Norfolk, VA. The set back did not stop me from smoking and about a year later, I was busted by the Norfolk Police for possession. I was let off with a fine, but learned my lesson. The most dangerous thing about marijuana is that it is illegal.
I continued to smoke pot, but was more careful and have never been arrested since. Knock on wood. I do have a criminal record thanks to that bust which has caused some problems with some of my employers over the years. I still managed to keep a job and have been gainfully employed over the last 36 years, while smoking regularly. I don't do any drugs except pot. I have not become a crack head or a heroin addict. I don't use any prescription drugs either. Pot is my Prozac.
I do drink occasionally, but rarely get drunk (still don't like the hangover). I am 59-years-old, in excellent health, and have always had a job. My employer doesn't know I smoke pot, or they would fire me. I live in a prohibition state, but am hopeful the green wave will be rolling through in the next few years.
I do not believe that pot is a "gateway drug" any more than tobacco or alcohol is. I smoked tobacco and drank alcohol before I smoked pot. I also do not believe legalizing pot will cause more traffic accidents. There are plenty of people already driving around stoned, and if anything it makes you more cautious when driving high.
The people who are most scared of legalizing pot are people who know very little about it, like Jeff Sessions and the War on Drugs folks. So there is my story in short form. Also the stoner stereotype is not true. Most people would never think I smoke pot as much as I do. So let's legalize it!