How Marijuana Got Mainstreamed
By ANDREW FERGUSON | TIME MAGAZINE
Medicate? The medical-marijuana industry relies heavily on such genteel euphemisms. To medicate is to smoke pot, and no one in the industry calls pot pot anymore; it’s medicine now. Dealers are called caregivers, and the people who buy their dope—medicine, medicine—are patients. There’s no irony here, no winks or nudges to signal that someone’s leg is being pulled. “After work,” says a counter clerk, or budtender, at Briargate Wellness Center, an upscale dispensary serving the tony north side of Colorado Springs, “I’ll just go home, kick back, take out the bong and medicate.”
The euphemisms are an important element in the larger movement to bring marijuana use out from the shadows, as advocates say, so it can take its place innocently on Americans’ nearly infinite menu of lifestyle preferences, from yachting to survivalism to macrobiotic cooking. So far, the strategy is working. Colorado and 13 other states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana in the past 14 years. More than a dozen other states are considering the idea. Overnight, dispensaries have sprung up in hundreds of towns and cities; billboards touting one outlet’s pot over its rivals’ are plastered all over Los Angeles. In some parts of California—where marijuana is the biggest cash crop, with total sales of $14 billion annually—medical pot has become such an established part of the commercial base that cities are moving toward taxing it.
It’s not clear that even political setbacks discourage, much less stop, the mainstreaming of marijuana. Anti-pot forces cheered on Nov. 2 when voters in four states apparently rejected pro-pot ballot initiatives—including California’s Prop 19, which would have legalized possession of an ounce (28 g) of pot or less. But by Election Day, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature had already rendered Prop 19 moot. A month earlier, he signed a bill that reduced possession of up to an ounce from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. By Jan. 1, 2011, jaywalkers may have more to fear from California cops than potheads do.
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