A Cautionary Tale


By Max Hartshorne

Every time a fancy new building goes up, or a renovation is almost complete, I often reflect on a trend that seems to have no limits. What is going in there? And in 2022 in Massachusetts, there is often a simple answer. It’s another marijuana store, or a pot-growing facility.

Take a drive on interstate 91, head north or south, and you’ll see the billboards promoting our ubiquitous legal cannabis. One states, “Life is Better with Cannabis.” I beg to differ.

My life was controlled by cannabis since I discovered the wonders of the plant at the tender age of 14. I had marvelous times after consuming the herb, laughing and amazing myself with how smart I felt, and how much camaraderie came from our association with the weed. I have had friendships based on the mutual love of getting high, and I’ve bonded with countless relatives and friends over bowls and bongs.

When it was still illegal, we were all in a fraternity with a secret …. we were breaking the law, but it was a silly, toothless law, and one that few of us really cared about. We were friends in the community of stoners, and it didn’t matter what the Man said, we were free to let our freak flags fly, and roll up another doobie. This went on for decades for me, and all the while I was productive, and held down great jobs, raised a family and tried to keep my herb intake secret, at least from the authorities.

The decades have a way of catching up to you and as the laws evolved, things got looser, and it was easier and easier to grow your own, and even buy the best strains in one of those stores that are cropping up everywhere. Marijuana today is the greatest business ever, we think. Take a vacation to Colorado, California, or Maine, and voila, more stores, and more chances to get stoned.

If I were to list the times that the herb steered me wrong, I would run out of space in this column. One time I drove 90 minutes out of my way on an Atlanta freeway, almost making it to Tennessee because I was buzzed and couldn’t figure out which way took me to my friend’s house in Sugar Hill, Ga.

Or the time my granddaughter bawled me out for smelling like the herb, when I was visiting their home. And the final straw, only recently, when I decided to tell an absolutely stupid story, a sad story to anyone else, but to me, one that made me laugh out loud — like a complete idiot. Later on when I asked my friend if anyone noticed, he said yes, they did. That was my turning point.

I discovered soon after that for me, my life wasn’t better with cannabis. It was consuming my evenings, and it was made worse when my legal crop of marijuana provided me with a lifetime supply of powerful buds, just waiting to be smoked. And I could give it to my weed-loving friends, and everyone was happy. Except me.

I found a group page on the popular website, Reddit.com called r/leaves.

Reading through Leaves, you realize that many people spend a huge amount of money on marijuana, and are hooked. They can’t stop smoking it all day and all night long. It might seem like ‘the fun drug’ but when you read about how hard people try and fail to quit you realize it’s a serious addiction and not so fun.

I am not advocating a return to the days when people would risk a criminal record from being caught smoking pot. I am happy that the laws have been changed, and I am happy that many people have earned a good living working in the stores or supplying these profitable enterprises with their now-legal products.

For the advocates of legal weed, and of home delivery of weed, I offer my own cautionary tale. If you are a person who becomes addicted to the feeling of brief euphoria that pot gives you, be careful because you too, one day might wake up after smoking for 40 years and find you are indeed not just a habitual pothead but a pot addict.

I’d love to get back all the time, money and energy that I put into the herb, since I began smoking as a teenager. Nobody is blaming the pot stores, since it is all legal and regulated.

But for many of us, life indeed is NOT better with cannabis. –

Max Hartshorne lives in South Deerfield MA and edits the GoNOMAD.com travel website.