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Susan Sampson | Pot: Stinky, sophisticated and semi-legal

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Well, dope has been legal here for a month and we haven’t gone to hell in a hand-basket. It’s legal under state, but not federal law. Under the Controlled Substances Act, it’s a Class One drug that is more dangerous than meth or oxycontin. However, that’s not my experience.

Forty years ago when I moved from rural Oregon to Seattle, I found marijuana everywhere, in college classrooms and on street corners. I tried it, but like former President Clinton, I didn’t inhale. I wasn’t a smoker and I wasn’t coordinated enough to get very much into my lungs. I got enough to know that smoking it was a stinky, harsh drug delivery system. Personally, I was too busy to submit to a prolonged buzz — I had kids, school and a job to attend to. At $35 per ounce baggy, I couldn’t afford it. Nevertheless, knowing its effects to be comparable to that of alcohol (the more you take, the more you are affected), I have favored its legality ever since. Nobody I knew became addicted or used it as a threshold drug. Rather, many became public figures and people of significant achievement. I see the governmental efforts to control it to be wasteful.

I’m still too busy and dope is still too pricey and too stinky to tempt me, but I know people who enjoy it. “It’s like a handshake with an old friend,” one contemporary said. The product is different now: It’s clean packages of pure buds, free of leaf trash and seeds. It’s sold by the strain — developed plants that reproduce their characteristics reliably. Packages are labeled with the percentage of THC (psychoactive chemical) and CBD (other cannabis products) that each strain contains. Strains have colorful names, like Qwerty, Dutch Treat or Mendo Purple. Online connoisseurs describe their qualities using the language of oenophiles.

Obviously these refined strains and products were not developed instantly after recreational use became legal. It’s astonishing to me that such a sophisticated industry was operating underground, but wasn’t taxed before, because it was illegal.

I’ve seen marijuana help people with certain neurological disorders. Given its significant medical potential, I believe that the Justice Department and the Secretary of Health and Human Services should take it off Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act. They should encourage the pharmaceutical industry to see what good they can do with it.

Susan Sampson writes about the joys of being a newcomer in North Central Washington. She can be reached at