Every morning I walk down Santa Monica Blvd. by the Shake Shack past the vacant house the legendary rock band The Doors made famous and cross over to La Cienega Blvd. On the other side is the infamous Alta Motel, a seedy joint where cheap escorts make their way out of motel rooms singing the tunes of bygone rockers. Next door is a large broken window pane that announces psychic readings. And this is next to two headshops and three marijuana dispensaries. The air above this little slice of La Cienega is always filled with the fumes of marijuana, a repository where loners, yocals and destitute people puff on buds of reefer, or so it was called in my day.
Perhaps Kenny Chesney and Pink say it best in the lyrics to their hit song Setting the World on Fire: “Yeah, we got a little higher than we probably should, we were in a hotel singin’ in the hallway lights, we were strikin’ the matches right down to the ashes, setting the world on fire…”
Here at the corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica, though, it’s not unique. It represents a microcosm of the rest of the country which appears to be embracing cannabis as the new norm. As such, here are some important facts regarding marijuana’s rise to legal status in America:
Marijuana is a mind-altering drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana—also called weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, and a vast number of other slang terms—is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried, shredded leaves and flowers of Cannabis sativa, or hemp plant. There are many ways for people to smoke marijuana. The main psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical in marijuana, responsible for most of the intoxicating effects that people seek, is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The chemical is