Monday, May 23, 2011

Pot-Smoking And The Potential Supreme-Court Nod

Acapulco gold, Maui wowie, Panama red, bhang, cannabis, doobie, dope, ganja, grass, hash, hashish, hemp, herb, joint, loco weed, maryjane, pot, reefer, roach, sinsemilla, tea, weed

-- Synonyms for “marijuana” from

I’ve been thinking a lot about smoking pot lately.  It’s only natural in a place like Amsterdam.  It’s in the air here.  Literally, I can smell it as I write this.

Me?  I’ve never smoked pot.  Forty years and still not one toke; not one bong hit; not one puff off the magic dragon; never touched the stuff.  For real, it’s true.

I was a senior in high school when the decision was made.  It was November 1987, and President Reagan had nominated then-appellate Judge Donald Ginsburg to the United States Supreme Court.  In the lead-up to the confirmation process, it was revealed that Ginsburg had smoked marijuana in college and perhaps beyond.  His nomination was soon derailed.  Weed, it seems, kept him from taking a seat on the court.

That sealed it for me:  grass was off the table.  I was 16 at the time, and going places.  Other people thought so too.  Later that school year—in selecting the “Senior Superlatives”—my classmates designated me “Most Likely To Become President of the United States.”  Being the young idealist I was, I figured I could do it, too.  That, or perhaps the Supreme Court.  Maybe even both.  Why not?  Just look at William Howard Taft.

Fast forward to Amsterdam 2011.  I am sitting a stone’s throw from a so-called “Coffee Shop” where, what is otherwise known as “the good shit,” is both plentiful and legal to consume.  For several hours I’ve been thinking:  Isn’t it high time that I get high?  I mean, at this point, is there any conceivable scenario under which I would one day be nominated to the Supreme Court?

After high school, and college, I did, in fact, earn myself a law degree.  I even made law review and got good grades at a decent school.  And this:  I received the so-called “Book Award”—or the highest grade—in a class called Federal Courts.  In my mind, I was halfway to becoming one of The Nine. 

And here’s something interesting, if not foreboding:  through a series of random events, including law-school visits and a lawyer gathering in Tampa, Florida, I somehow managed to snap photographs with not one, not two, but three, current-and-former Supreme Court Justices.  There I am:  shaking the hand of Justice Ginsburg; grinning next to Justice Souter; striking a pose with Justice Scalia.  I was like some sort of Supreme-Court-Justice-Where’s Waldo.  It felt as if the Universe was bringing me closer.

Considering the situation as it stands now, however, I’m beginning to have serious doubts about a potential nod.  Currently, I’m unemployed and living in a stuffy, 6-bed hostel dorm room in Amsterdam with five perpetually-stoned young foreign guys, two of whom are currently sleeping atop their covers in nothing but tight, black boxer-briefs.  They woke me up when they rolled in at 3:40 a.m. smelling of the Red Light District; I could barely get back to sleep after I watched them unabashedly strip down to their skivvies.  I can’t imagine Sandra Day O’Connor ever found herself in a similar situation.

In her run-up to ultimately taking a seat on the Supreme Court, the newest Justice—Elena Kagan—published six scholarly law review articles, one of which concerns “The Role of Governmental Motive in First Amendment Doctrine.”  I, in contrast, am the anonymous author of a travel blog that makes liberal use of profanity and discusses important topics such as global Che-and-Hello-Kitty sightings, and my metric bra size.  I’m guessing this isn’t getting me any closer to that imposing marble building next to the Capitol.

In four days I’ll fly back to the U.S. and plan to take up residence in my brother’s office-slash-guestroom until I figure out what to do next.  I don’t know, but I suspect I’ll probably end up cleaning his house and babysitting his kids in exchange for food, at least until something else turns up.  Not exactly your typical path to the High Court.

So, I’m thinking it might be time to concede that—pot-smoker or no-pot-smoker, I may never be handed that gavel.

Still--even apart from any Supreme-Court aspirations--I remain hesitant to start down Cannabis Road.  Frankly, I’m scared, and a new onslaught of what-ifs are plaguing my thoughts.  What if it makes me sickWhat if I have a bad reactionWhat if I lose control and get robbed?
Or worse:  What if love it?  Marijuana, it’s been said, is a so-called “gateway drug” to the harder stuff.  What if, the next thing I know, I can’t put down the crack pipe?  I’d never make the Supreme Court then.

In discussing my potential pot-smoking plans with other backpackers some weeks back, an aficionado warned that if I were going to try pot for the first time alone in Amsterdam, I shouldn’t go straight for a Cheech-and-Chong fatty.  “You should start with a pot brownie,” this person advised. 

I remembered this yesterday when, on my way into town, I spotted a big platter of brownies on the counter of a nearby pot-smoking establishment.  I was told they’re laced with reefer, and I must say, they did look tempting. 

Part of me feels like maybe I could benefit from getting high.  Like, maybe I’d be more chill about stuff; less worried about the future and whatnot.  I don’t know—maybe it finally is high time that I get stoned, right here, this week in Amsterdam, to punctuate the end of this long journey of self-discovery. 

But the other, bigger part of me is still a dreamer brimming with optimism.  Truth be told, I see myself one day sitting in that Senate-confirmation hot seat, there with my glass of water, holding my own as the members of the Judiciary Committee fire their best, most probing questions.  I’m wearing a black suit, a cerulean-blue blouse, and smart-looking, tortoise-shell glasses.  Here’s the exchange I imagine:

Senator X:            Have you ever smoked marijuana?
Travelarity:            As a matter of fact, no, I haven’t.
Senator X:            Ever come close?
Travelarity:            Well, truth be told, there were these few crazy days in Amsterdam with these five young guys in my room wearing nothing but their underwear.  As you can imagine it was hard for me to keep my head on straight and then I ran across these delicious-looking brownies at the Easy Times Coffee Shop just around the corner near the canal and . . . .

And it goes on from there.  Which reminds me, if I’m ever going to get to 51 votes, I need to work on my tendency to ramble.  Starting:  now.