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Marijuana: From Reefer Madness To Legal

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Dad made it quite clear: If he ever caught my older brother smoking reefer, he'd be out of the house. If Dad ever found the stuff in the house, he'd be out of the house.

The word was marijuana would lead to harder drugs because it was a well-known fact that hard drug users got their start with marijuana. Plus, you could go to jail. Plus, you could die like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. Practically every drug film we saw in our Daniel Webster Junior High School health class talked about the bad effect that marijuana and other drugs had on people's lives.

You don't need that stuff in your life, he said.

Whereas I dutifully followed our dad's words to a fault, my brother walked his own path. I knew he was getting high. When he'd come in from outside on the cold northern Illinois nights from hanging out with his friends, I could smell it on his jacket. I'm sure Dad could smell it, too.

The only question was, Where was he stashing it?

My brother was two years older and although we'd shared a room since forever with his twin bed less than 6 feet away, I was convinced there were no two brothers on Earth more different than us. I loved sports, he hated sports; give me James Brown, he'd take Steppenwolf.; if one of us said yin, the other said yang. Things got so bad that he actually drew a line on the ceiling down across the wall to demarcate my side of the room from his.

Then, when things could not possibly get worse, he turned 16, got a job at Radio Shack, and with his first check bought a Radio Shack tuner, turntable and little rinky-dink speakers though which he'd blow me and my transistor radio out of the room to the ironic tune of Steppenwolf's "The Pusher."

Yep. He was getting high all right. But where was he stashing his stuff? The answer came one summer day when he left the house and forgot to turn off his tuner. I crossed his line to turn it off and got whiff of a strong smell coming from one of his speakers. It hit me then. All the times he spent fiddling with one of his speakers that seemed normal. And always before he left the house.

The back was slightly open. I looked inside and there it was. His stuff. A small plastic bag of what I came to know as Acapulco gold. Man, he was careless. Dad could come in and easily find it.

I put the cover back on.

When my brother came home and sat down on his bed on the other side of the line, I told him to be careful about his stuff. All I said.

What a long and smoky road marijuana has taken since the late 1960s and early 1970s. What a shift in attitude and legality. In 1969, just 12 percent of Americans in a Pew Research Center Survey said marijuana should be legalized. In 2013, it was more than half, 52 percent.

Today the drug is being legally marketed in stores for medicinal purposes. Meanwhile, CVS Caremark recently announced it is phasing out the legal drug of tobacco from its stores.

My brother, far as I know, never graduated to harder drugs.

As for me, I never liked any kind of smoke — tobacco or marijuana.

But back to CVS. Certainly ridding its inventory of tobacco for health reasons makes sense. How can any company — let alone a health care company — square away with providing a product to customers that everybody knows can injure and kill you?

So to have a company care more for the public's health than corporate profits is a wonderful thing.

Indeed. To our health!

Yes, and only the conspiracy theorists among us would consider as CVS clears its shelves of tobacco whether it is really just making room for the smoke of a different kind — medical marijuana.

My brother would probably say he knew this all along.

Frank Harris III of Hamden is a professor of journalism at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. His email address is frankharristhree@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at fh3franktalk.

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