The Promise of Legal Pot

The Promise of Legal Pot
Eric Engman/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP

Marijuana permeated every aspect of hippie culture in 1960s: Think of Merry Pranksters sitting atop a Volkswagen bus smoking a branch-sized doobie. Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Janis Joplin—all smoked marijuana. Joints, supplied by Bob Dylan, “turned on” the Beatles in 1964 at the same time that their music was shifting from the saccharine pop of the 1950s to the sitar-laced grooviness of the 1960s. Marijuana was not just the iconic substance of a decade, like absinthe in 1920s Paris, or tea in Victorian England. Smoking marijuana was also a formative act.

Young people smoked both because they liked getting high and because they felt that marijuana built community, creating a ritual that was political as well as social. It separated them from their elders, who were shocked by the social changes of the era. Most importantly, it was illegal: Taking a toke in public was a micro act of resistance against the state which, at the time, locked young people away for partaking in mood-enhancing THC while encouraging them to dump napalm on Vietnam.

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