Reefer Mainstream

Thousands of Arizonans smoke marijuana. Get over it.

Robert works in sales; he's held down the same job for the past three years. The only person at work who knows he smokes pot is the co-worker who sells it to him.

He would be devastated if his daughter knew he smoked, more so if she started herself.

"If I found out that she started smoking it, I'd be disappointed in her," Robert says. "She's better than I am. She's got a 4.5 grade average, cheerleader -- she doesn't need that right now."

Photos: Jeff Newton, Makeup: Louise Jay, Props: He
photos by Jeff Newton

Marijuana is only a small part of Robert's life these days. "I don't even really crave it. Sometimes, I'll be sitting around by myself and think, Hey, this would be a good time to get high.'"

He's much more focused on his golf game. "Now there's an addiction," Robert says.

THE STATE EMPLOYEE

Hal's parents were hippies.

"There was this one time when I was in fourth grade, and my mom pulled out this bag of weed and put it in the refrigerator. She said, Don't tell anybody we have this. Nobody needs to know.'"

Hal thought his mom had some expensive gourmet herbs. He figured out the truth at 16, when he shared a joint with some friends on the Encanto Park golf course. Hal was a junior at Brophy Preparatory Academy, the fanciest Catholic school in town.

"It was kind of demystified for me early on. It was no big deal," Hal says of pot. And pot has been part of his life since that day on the golf course.

Hal smoked through college and his first job, as a landscaper. Then he smoked through graduate school at Arizona State University. Now, at 29, he works for the state, spending grant money for a small agency. Hal figures he smokes two or three times a day.

"Sometimes, I get up and smoke before work, but mostly just on a Friday," he says.

"I usually come home, smoke after I come home. Make dinner, play with the dog. Smoke some more, watch some TV and go to bed. Just like somebody having a drink."

Hal's wife, who also has a master's degree from ASU, works as an academic counselor and smokes with him. He's never smoked with his mom -- he's not sure she knows he does it -- but whenever Hal gets together with his dad, who lives out of state, they toke up.

Access isn't much of a problem.

"We had one guy who was kind of more the inner city type of dealer, the guy with the Monte Carlo -- that kind of scene. We kind of got sketched out by that after a while. Now we get it from one of our friends who we know from ASU."

Sometimes, Hal buys an ounce and sells it among his friends. Sometimes, he just gets a quarter to keep at home. He and his wife spend between $100 and $150 a month on pot.

They plan on kids someday, and Hal figures he'll stop while they're trying to get pregnant, and encourage his wife to stop, too.

"I don't know after that. I guess it's hard to say without having that responsibility," he says. Hal knows it might get tricky when the little ones get older.

For now, pot is really important to Hal.

"It's so much a part of my lifestyle that I can't imagine being married to someone who didn't, or was against it. I have some friends who don't, but they're cool with me sparking up next to them."

Being friends with someone who's anti-pot would be totally unacceptable to Hal. Like being friends, he says, with someone who's pro-life.

THE TEACHERS

Denise, 48, is an elementary schoolteacher in an East Valley public school. Her friend Rebecca, 49, teaches college. Both are single moms with teenage daughters; they met at a church singles group.

Rebecca buys her pot from Denise, who gets it from an ex-boyfriend.

They both worry a lot about their daughters. The girls aren't ready for marijuana, Rebecca and Denise say, but does that mean their mothers shouldn't tell them the truth -- that when you're a grown-up, there's nothing wrong with smoking pot?

Both women started experimenting with marijuana at 15, although in Rebecca's case, it turned out to be catnip. It was a snobby thing at their East Coast high schools -- the stoners were better than the redneck beer drinkers.

When Rebecca was 18, her father found a plant and a grow light in her bedroom. He was terrified of getting busted, she recalls. When Rebecca's daughter was 7 or 8, she came home from school with a list of bad drugs. Marijuana was right next to heroin and cocaine.

How do you explain the difference to a 7-year-old? Seven years later, Rebecca's still trying to answer that question. She knows her daughter suspects her. The teenager has found pot in her mom's underwear drawer and didn't seem completely convinced when told it was herbal tea.

"It does bother me. I don't like not being honest," Rebecca says.

Both Rebecca and Denise have trouble finding the time -- and space -- to get stoned. Rebecca figures she smokes once a month, Denise a little more often. Once when they went out hiking -- Denise tried to teach Rebecca to use a compass.

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