Reefer Mainstream

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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.


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.

"The time we painted my cabinets," Rebecca recalls.

One of the oddest things for Denise is sitting through antidrug lectures by the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) police officers. She changes the subject as soon as the cops leave the classroom.

Denise knows there are people out there who would find it "disgusting" that a 48-year-old mom and teacher smokes pot. As for her students' parents?

"I think they would be very uncomfortable."


Even though Christians are supposed to be forgiving, Jackson wouldn't dare tell any of his friends at church that he gets high.

"No matter how Christian I could be, it would always be in their mind, Hey, there goes that pot smoker guy.'"

So Jackson, 27, goes to church every Sunday, reads the Bible every day and gets high several times a week. His wife, also a devout Christian, has never smoked.

"It's Don't ask, don't tell,'" Jackson says. "She doesn't want to know about it."

After work, after the house is clean, Jackson slips into the garage and smokes. Out of respect for the wife, he's ditched all the "nifty paraphernalia," like the three-foot bong he used to keep in his bedroom closet at his parents' home.

During his senior year in high school, a cousin gave him some pot; Jackson's parents always ignored the towel stuffed under the door, he recalls. During college, home -- or a parked car -- was the only place he could smoke. Jackson graduated from Grand Canyon University, a private religious school with strict rules. There are two kinds of students at GCU, according to Jackson -- the "laid-back Christians" like him, and the "real hard-core Bible thumpers," like his freshman-year roommate. The roommate was constantly trying to get Jackson to quit smoking.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.