I’m not going to lie; as a sober person, it’s not easy for me to read an interview with a successful writer who has maintained a manageable—almost daily—marijuana habit for five decades. It’s not that this changes my first hand knowledge about addiction or my struggles with compulsive behavior, but it always hurts a little to be reminded that there are people out there who can use drugs and not have it take over their lives.
Do Hippies Really Help?
Catherine Hiller, a child of the 60s and author of six books, writes about her 50-year relationship with pot in her latest work, the “marijuana memoir” Just Say Yes. Hiller tells Marie Claire that since the release of the book, people have contacted her to tell her how grateful they are that she has come out about her habit, even calling her a hero. But is a 68-year-old mother of three publicly declaring her love of getting high really helping anyone?
I am not being a jerk, I am asking this question honestly. Because when I think of instances where someone speaking out might turn them into a hero, I picture the tell-all of an incest survivor, a discriminated-against factory employee, a battered wife—not a former Greenwich Village hippie who got married, moved to the suburbs and had three children. As Hiller herself says, she has nothing to lose by blowing the whistle on being a pothead; she is of retirement age, not seeking a job or a position in politics so it’s hard to see any hero-like risk involved in her getting high and knocking out a book about getting high.
I Know Why This Caged Bird Sings
The reason why most are grateful to someone like Maya Angelou, Ellen DeGeneres or Craig Ferguson is that they publicly admit to falling into a category that society attaches shame to: sexual assault, homosexuality and alcoholism, respectively. Those who struggle with those issues feel less alone when they learn that people who’ve shared their plight have been successful. When a woman admits that, with the exception of her pregnancies, she has smoked pot her entire life and still managed to raise a family, publish books and stay married doesn’t feel like an act of bravery to me—nor does it feel like using the inverse of an iconic, multi-million dollar anti-drug campaign slogan as the title of your book seem necessary.
In another interview Hiller did with Ignite in 2013, she compared the plight of pot smokers to the plight of the gay community—noting that when more people came out about being gay, the laws changed. I find this to be a tough comparison to swallow (forgive the pun). As someone who has three parents that are daily pot smokers (I include my mother’s long-term boyfriend), I feel I have a good handle on why marijuana advocates fight for legalization and it’s a far cry from being shunned by your family, workplace and community for your sexual orientation.
But I digress; obviously there are people out there who, I guess, feel shame about their weed habit and find Catherine Hiller’s openness about her love of toking to be healing, or at least refreshing. But there are a few things I want to call BS on.
You Can Have Only so Much Control
Hiller claims she never gets high before an important call or interview but that can only apply to scheduled appointments. As a freelance writer and performer, I am asked to take last minute calls and unexpected interviews from time to time. Unless she only smokes at night, which doesn’t really fit in with her love of baked kayaking, this would be a hard boundary to control.
According to Hiller, she doesn’t experience withdrawal if she doesn’t smoke. I understand she is a pot advocate and the connotation of the word withdrawal is negative but I would have respected her more if she had been honest. Instead, she says she doesn’t feel any withdrawal or physical craving. I’m sorry, but I find that hard to believe. When humans are in the habit of doing something every day, there is going to be a physical craving to return to the habit. I don’t think weed is any less addictive than buttered popcorn and if I eat that three days in a row, I am automatically wondering where my bowl of goodness is by the fourth day.
Furthermore, after Hiller denies experiencing any withdrawal, she goes on to describe her withdrawal symptoms—difficulty sleeping and eye pain. By contradicting herself in this way, it comes off as if she is in some kind of denial, protecting something or has an ulterior agenda. If she is going to brand herself as a voice speaking out on behalf of marijuana moms, it would have been much more effective if she responded with, “Yes, of course I experience withdrawal symptoms but they aren’t bad enough for me to stop smoking if I need to.” To me, that is the responsible adult answer.
Speak for Yourself
Hiller openly admits to smoking pot with her sons. Surely many would criticize this decision but I feel parents should be allowed to raise their children as they see fit. However, Hiller compares her offspring joint sharing program to the time you had your first glass of wine with your parents—as if everyone has that moment. I sure didn’t. Not only did my only real parent not drink but if she had, I would not have wanted to drink with her. She’s my mom, not my bestie.
Hiller goes on to label drinking and smoking pot with a parent as “not a huge deal,” and I beg to differ. While I have never boozed it up with my mom, I did smoke pot with her once. We sat in my car and listened to the Rolling Stones. I wanted that bonding experience with her but once I got it, it was so creepy and weird. Perhaps it was the paranoia of the schwag weed we smoked in the 90s but it was definitely not “not a huge deal” or something I would repeat.
I don’t know Hiller and absolutely respect her success. I say smoke as much pot as you want. I just don’t think it’s up to her to decide that toking it up with her kids, not to mention doing it for five decades, is something to be celebrated—book to sell or not.