We talked about drugs in our household the way many people talk about ghosts in a haunted house.
Some people just live with them, some people enjoy living with them and some people have no tolerance for them at all. I was told that I had no tolerance.
I never tried marijuana as a kid, but apparently I walked into an antique store with my parents once where incense and weed smoke were present. I had a coughing fit and my parents declared that I must be allergic.
I was eight-years-old, I had no clue what any of this meant.
My dad had a personal stake in the matter, as a retired narcotics investigator for the US Forest Service—he had fought the good fight to keep weed groves off government land. Not that he lacked a sense of humor about marijuana. We had a sample pot leaf preserved in glass in a back room, and he had a souvenir t-shirt with a giant pot leaf on it that read “Trinity County, Not Just for Logging.”
My parents took pride in the fact that I was “allergic,” and when it was confirmed that I actually am allergic to hemp, the deal was sealed. Hemp makes me develop hives, but no one knew what “the devil’s lettuce” would be capable of. We all shuddered to think.
When it came time to choose my college, I applied for Humboldt State—that lovely green, Northern California campus, where the dorm rooms have a consistent skunk smell. My parents expressed concerns for their “sensitive daughter” and I ended up at a school in Redding instead.
Not surprisingly, I still ended up at a party where people were smoking weed. It was Christmas break and I went to visit friends in Santa Barbara. “Oh, I can’t join you,” I protested, “I’m allergic.” Laughter ensued and questions flowed about how I knew.
Eventually it was decided, in the fashion immortal youth often choose, that there was a hospital two blocks away and if I had a reaction someone would rush me there.
My tall, large lunged friend sat next to me and inhaled a giant bong full of pungent smoke. He leaned into me as if to deliver the breath of life, sealing his lips around mine. I inhaled as he coached me to hold it in. I held, held, held and then slowly exhaled.
All eyes were on me, waiting for my reaction.
Looking around the room I felt comfortably light headed, relaxed and noticed that the numbers on the digital clock seemed like they were floating on a pillow of fog.
We sat there for what felt like forever before I broke the silence, “My parents f*cking lied to me.”
Author: Kelly Visel
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock