Last March, I came out green to two million people: the circulation of the Sunday New York Times.
I hadn't expected to come out in such a spectacular fashion - in the most public way imaginable. True, I was about to publish Just Say Yes: A Marijuana Memoir, in which I am frank and enthusiastic about my longtime cannabis use. Candor is the point: it never occurred to me to use a pseudonym. But most memoirs published by small, independent presses like mine (Heliotrope Books) sell just a few hundred copies, and most are reviewed only on blogs or on Amazon.
My expectations were not as high as I was when I wrote the memoir!
I enjoyed writing the book because of the two challenges it posed: first, how to use cannabis as a spine for the important events in my life, and, second, how to infuse the book with momentum while going backward. Each chapter starts at an earlier point than the one before, so the book begins in the present and ends when I'm a little girl. These narrative strategies distracted me from worrying about how much I was exposing myself to my readers. My basic assumption was that a couple of hundred strangers would read my little paean to pot - as well as my close friends and relations, who already know about my predilection.
I did not expect that over the course of three days in March, editing clients, distant acquaintances, extended family, and next door neighbors would all learn I'm a pothead! I had sent Chapter 1 of my book to the opinion pages of the New York Times, but because of the volume of submissions, I didn't think it would be chosen. When it was accepted, I didn't think it would be published. Even as I read through the copy-edited manuscript, I expected some world event to take priority. But at 7 am, Thursday March 19, "How I Buy Weed" went live in the Opinionator, and on March 22 it appeared in print in the Sunday Review.
From now on, marijuana may be the first thing anyone thinks about me- - and I don't mind. I'm proud to be an advocate. My habit won't cost me my job, because I won't fire myself, and I live in a state where the penalty for possessing an ounce or less is a $100 citation.
I mention these things to the people who tell me I'm brave. I'm not.
I did lose my biggest writing client, a pharmaceutical company, but that was to be expected. Not only are they a conservative group, but cannabis is an affront to their business model.
And what did the neighbors think?
One ran over to say, "I never knew you smoked! Why didn't you ever offer me any?" Another told me smoking pot is the one thing that helps her seventeen-year-old bipolar son. A third asked if I would address her book club.
I think there are a lot of secret smokers out there: happy and successful individuals who happen to smoke weed. They should leave the closet, if they can.
When gays came out, laws changed. Marijuana laws aren't changing fast enough. So consider "voting green" (that is, voting for candidates who are committed to cannabis legalization) -- and see if you can come out green yourself in 2016!
This article originally appeared on MERRYJANE.com, which is dedicated to elevating the discussion of cannabis culture.