I don’t have any answers, but I have lots of questions and an imagination.
I was born and raised in this state. I’m not offended by the responsible use of alcohol or marijuana. But man, let’s face it….it’s a seriously crazy and interesting time right now in California. With people publicly smoking weed in the stands in San Francisco during this year’s World Series while state authority figures look the other way. Fans are practically smoking alongside the players themselves…..With voting just around the corner and Proposition 19 on the ballot, I wasn’t just pondering how publicly stoned the general population might soon become (which may or may not even be the case), but I’ve been more pondering the effects on our economic and social culture and how it will be affected by the legalization/decriminalization of the substance here in this state. We have spent decades building industries, advertising, brands, lifestyles, the way we cook and serve food, and everyday purchasing decisions around alcohol consumption. We did the same with cigarettes and now are spending millions trying to get people to quit smoking and stop feeding the ultimate poster child for greed and gluttony that is Phillip-Morris. The ramifications, both short and long-term, of Prop 19 passing, are interesting to conceptualize and I think ripple much wider and deeper than most are really considering.
I’ll outline a few thoughts, guesses and speculations below. My disclaimer here is that I’m not suggesting you vote yes OR no. That’s up to you. This post isn’t so much about my opinion on the matter as much as it is just envisioning what a state I lived in my whole life would look like in a culture that has legalized pot layered into it’s everyday. I’ve been contemplating recently, all the little facets and details of American culture that might be affected by true legalization. For the sake of apropos word choice, it’s a trip.
Let’s assume that we live in a ‘Prop 19 passed’ world where the Feds don’t do anything, plead the fifth with a refusal to publicly condemn or embrace what California is trying to do, so they can sit back and observe and let us run our own experimental petrie dish, opening it up for US corporations to exploit California’s new mind-altering landscape, firing on all bong-shaped cylinders….. What might the ‘New California‘ look like? Take everything you’ve seen, done, experienced online and off, in the media, the workplace, on TV in a bar or restaurant, that had alcohol in the picture and replace every drink with a pipe or joint in hand. Replace every beer pitcher with a hookah. Now tie industries, commercialism, sex appeal, peer pressure, news feeds, social media content, discussions, stock prices of companies, retail merchandise, signs in airplanes, episodes of COPS, SNL sketches, and more….to the fact that it’s now legal and a functional integrated layer of our social lives. It might drastically change the nature of our decompression time at home or on vacation if you replace beer and cocktails with it. Think about all the industry and employment and job types this would affect, alter, destroy and create. Will beer bottle manufacturing facilities slowly be nudged aside to make room for smoke accessory manufacturing and assembly lines? How will crime and the ebb and flow of human statistics be altered month over month when it comes to prison time, car accidents, drug use, productivity at work and in school? Will teaching methods change? What kinds of things, good and bad, would happen to California and it’s residents if we could just stroll into Jim Bob’s Grog Shop to pick up a pack of marijuana cigs and 8 bags of Cool Ranch (instead of the normal 1 or 2)?
In my opinion the legalization of this could completely reshape our commercial economy as we know it and open thousands of minds while simultaneously closing thousands of others. I have a bunch of questions about what that would look like for us California residents. I hope those of you that live here are at least thinking about it too before you hit the voting booth.
What about tourism? “Welcome to California, the Golden State of the harvest….grapes, citrus and buds oh my.” Wine-tasting won’t be the only popular road trip into the Napa Valley. Will Disneyland start selling hemp-woven Mickey Mouse ears to the kiddies in an effort to be more ‘green’ while poppa picks up a sno-cone and a skunk-infused churro from cart #14 in Frontier Land? Those slightly campy state-funded commercials with The Terminator and The Shriver (Maria) about ‘coming to California to visit or live‘ might have a different zing to them.
What about family gatherings and the mix of older generations and newer generations under the same roof? Will grampa be outside drinking a beer or Scotch or glass of wine while his 22 year old grandson smokes a bowl while they catch up on life? How would that look and would it play out smoothly or would it introduce a new struggle within family structures, belief systems, and generational gaps? If it’s legal, a drinking man of an older generation that was raised on the media plague of ‘reefer madness’ SHOULD technically be able to embrace a pot-smoking man of a newer generation because no law is broken, right? But would that old man be able to change the goggles that he has used to view the world and his family & friends for so many decades to new more updated ones so that he can still feel comfortable chatting it up with his pot-smoking grandsons at the next BBQ? When there’s a function or gathering that is heavily religious but includes alcohol consumption – i.e. wedding, etc. – will people only be offended by the pot smoke break guy and not the cigarette smoke break guy?
What about the social ramifications both online and off for adults and teens? Will the nature of photos, videos, Facebook statuses and Tweets start to take a different shape and if they do, what would that look like? I wonder if, because everyone posts a picture of everything they are excited about on Facebook – food, alcohol, parties, kids, events, travel, art… – we’ll now see thousands of pictures of someone’s new purple stash they just picked up. Will this content make or break connections with people emotionally and shift the nature of Facebook’s effect on how we’ve all started connecting with each other. Will it destroy friendships or create new ones? Will they have to add the ‘pot smoker’ option to dating site profiles?
My brain wormholes so deep into the different segments of our society in an effort to try and understand and speculate on the ramifications of a pot-legal state. What do you think about or envision to be a new reality if Prop 19 were to pass? Are you only focusing on the negative or the positive and why?