Op-ed by Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNC
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.
Bob Dylan was the poetic prophet of my generation—the children who came of age in the ’60s and ’70s. We were going to change the world and no one would dare stand in our way. And change the world we did.
The civil rights movement, women’s liberation, the sexual revolution, the Stonewall riots, population control, reproductive rights, preserving the environment, free speech—and we actually STOPPED A WAR!!! No generation before or since has ever done that.
While we did all this we also smoked a lot of pot—lots and lots of pot. Per capita marijuana consumption was higher back then than it is today or ever was.
Although marijuana was not responsible for all that happened, it played a big part. The defining slogan for our generation wasn’t “Freedom Now” or “Save the Planet”—it was “Make Love, Not War”—that’s what marijuana is all about!
Even if you didn’t use marijuana, you were affected by it because so many other people did.
Then our parents in their last hurrah elected Ronald Reagan to the presidency. That was bad enough, but then too many of us bought into the Reagan smarm and personal prosperity overtook community well-being. From the communes and shared communities of the 60s we morphed into greedy materialistic spoiled brats. It didn’t help either that many of us returned to mainline and fundamentalist religions as well.
Why did we stop smoking marijuana?
When patients 55 and over come to the doctor’s office I work at, I often get the same story about their marijuana use: “I used to smoke marijuana when I was a teen or in my 20s, but then I stopped.” When I ask why they stopped, I hear, “I got a job” or “I got married and had kids” or “I didn’t think I should be doing it anymore.” Nobody has ever told me they stopped using marijuana because it was causing any problems in their life.
Stopping smoking cannabis was the biggest mistake my generation ever made and the world has been paying the price for it ever since.
The psychological effects of marijuana helped our generation implement social change, instilled tolerance and a broader perspective that lead us to become agents for social justice, for racial, sexual and gender equality and kindled our love of nature and protecting the environment along with a commitment to freedom of mind and body.
If we had not stopped smoking pot, does anyone really believe we would now find ourselves in this world-wide ecological and economic disaster that was, in a large part, caused by us. We stopped the Vietnam War, but not the Iraq War—a war as unjust as Vietnam and even more reprehensible because we only joined sides in the war in Vietnam whereas we started the Iraq War.
Let’s finish the job we started in the 60s!
How can we make up for the problems we have caused and atone for our lost and squandered potential?
The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 18- to 34-year-olds are the largest consumers of marijuana. This group also has the highest support for legalizing marijuana. Kind of like where we were when we were that age.
Gallup, Rasmussen and Angus-Reid polls consistently show more than 50 percent support for legalizing marijuana—including 50 percent support from those over 55. Opposing legalization are the biggest power players in the U.S.: pharmaceutical and alcohol corporations and the most dreaded and powerful of all—cops.
Although my generation has not returned to anywhere near the marijuana use levels when we were young, our use is up significantly and increasing. We need to do what we failed to do when we were young and work with the youth of America for marijuana legalization. Together we shall overcome our opposition and return America to the pleasures and health benefits of marijuana and rekindle the ideals and actions that defined my generation.