At the time, Mom’s question caught me by surprise: “Have you ever tried marijuana?” she asked, sloshing her coffee around in a mug as we stood together in the kitchen. My mind went blank. Could this be the fabled “drug talk” that parents are supposed to give to their teenage children? If so, why was I getting it at 30?
It turned out my mother was less interested in my drug use than her own. When I told her I’d smoked pot in college, and a bunch of times since, she took the news in stride. The thing was, she and my father were hoping to score some weed. Did I know anybody?
A little context: My parents paid for my college education. They put me up for a semester of graduate school. They sat through three school plays and one flute recital; they came to my art opening; they bought me a skateboard. But given the chance to pay them back—in part, at least—for so many years of support and encouragement, I failed to deliver so much as a dime bag.
“You didn’t say no,” my mother recalled the other day, “but you didn’t say yes. It was clear that you were very hesitant about this.” After a moment, she added: “You didn’t give off positive vibrations.”
OK, so I never hooked up my parents. But in the weeks and months that followed, I discovered that many of my contemporaries—people in their late 20s or early 30s—had experienced something similar. Soon I’d heard dozens of stories about retired moms and pops returning to the marijuana habits of their youth. There were solicitations made over family dinners, intergenerational drug deals worked out over holiday weekends—the anecdotes were easy enough to find. Would I come across any data to support this trend?
n fact, a statistical trace of what I’ve taken to calling the “puff daddy” movement emerged a few years ago, when researchers at the National Institutes of Health compared national drug surveys conducted over two-year periods beginning in 1991 and 2001. Their analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the percentage of people who say they smoked marijuana in the past year had remained fairly stable over the 10-year stretch. (That is to say, it ended where it started.) But they found a very different pattern among those between the ages of 45 and 64: As my parents’ generation matured, the number of smokers in that group had nearly tripled.
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