By John Edward Rangel
Smoking cannabis became a regular form of medication for me when I was 15 years old. That was in 1977. Back then the U.S.A. was still reeling from the Vietnam War, Watergate and something the media referred to as “The Generation Gap” (we called it arguing with our parents).
These were trying, confusing times (much like now), and for a teenaged Chicano in East L.A. who had to deal with the added effects of institutionalized rascism (big white cops called us “Pancho” and beat us with gusto) it was sometimes overwhelming. Getting numb helped me cope.
Almost every adult I knew medicated on something.
The older generations on booze and pills, we kids on whatever we could steal from our parents medicine/liquor cabinets or purchase illegally on the streets. And man oh man, the streets of Los Angeles were awash with illegal drugs in the 70’s. You had cocaine, heroin, LSD, meth, PCP, magic mushrooms, peyote… The streets of L.A. were a smorgasbord of dope. I tried every single one. Sometimes alone or in combinations (cocktails).
The first three drugs I tried were tobacco (my high school had a designated smoking area used by teachers and students alike), alcohol and cannabis, in that order. Had I tried them in reverse order I probably would have never taken up tobacco and my alcohol consumption would have been greatly reduced. Cannabis was not the gateway drug to harder drugs – alcohol was. Nothing breaks down inhibitions better than booze. It is a sad fact that there are shitloads of shitheads making shitloads of noney trying to tell us otherwise. Right, Jeff?
When I medicate with cannabis I want to work in my garden while listening to Gregorian chants, Los Lobos and Lalo Guerrero. All other drugs make me loud and stupid, rowdy and stupid, rude and stupid or just plain stupid(especially booze). Cannabis helped me avoid becoming addicted to these other drugs.
So early on in my life I knew that herb was the way to go. Unfortunately, the local illegal drug dealers in most neighborhoods often sold several types of drugs. So if you went to a house to score a dime bag of weed you might run into tweakers (meth), junkies (heroin), crackheads (cocaine), shermheads (PCP) or people high on all of the above.
What really sucked was when my Connection didn’t have any cannabis but did have other drugs. Do you buy what he’s selling or take another risk at another dope house? This decision was often alcohol-influenced.
Suffice it to say there would invariably be a heavy undercover police presence around the drug selling house. I got busted trying to purchase cannabis. It made me a criminal and since I was now a convict a lot of doors started closing. The one door that kept getting bigger was the penitentiary door. My dream of becoming a Chicano Studies teacher died and after awhile I just became what they said I was – an ex con.
I remember one night, sitting in a holding cell inside the Third Street Sheriff’s Station in East L.A. and thinking, “Fuck, man! I just left my house to score a dime of weed!” Today I can walk into a store and legally buy that dime of weed, plus tax.
The war on drugs has left a lot of collateral damage in its wake. Misguided policies, whether good-intentioned or not, have damaged our society. There’s an old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
In my humble opinion, “We need more social nets and less police dragnets.”
Working in the construction and janitorial fields are two noble professions that I would defend vehemently and never disparage. As they are how I’ve fed my family. However, I often wish I could have taught our raza what a wonderful, resilient, powerful people we really are.
“Coffee’s Ready, Gotta Go…!!!”