When you've known somebody your entire life, there isn't much they can say to stun you.
Or so I thought.
"I want to start growing marijuana," my father declared during one of our weekly Skype chats.
Wait, what? Hang on a minute. You want to grow pot? Why?
"It's legal," he replied, "and I want to grow the plant."
Dad is 78 years old and more square than a Saltine cracker. While attending college in the Bay Area during the '60s, he was as far removed from hippies and the counterculture movement as someone his age could possibly be. How far removed?
The other day he sent a group text to my sister and I. It read:
"Who was Pink Floyd and how come I don't know anything about it? Did Mom know?"
Needless to say, we both got a good laugh out of that one.
I will say my father's interest in horticulture didn't just suddenly germinate. His front and back yards are filled with plants and flowers. He even has a room devoted to indoor orchids where fluorescent grow lights hum all hours of the day.
So in that context, marijuana is just another plant. A plant whose stigma is withering on the vine.
Well, at least in most places.
I thought about this recently while following the Fresno City Council debate over whether to place a business license tax for marijuana dispensaries on the November ballot. Never mind that California voters legalized medicinal marijuana way back in 1996. Never mind that starting Jan. 1, California became one of nine states to legalize recreational sales and use.
Why is Fresno so far behind, so stuck in puritanical thinking?
Because there are people in this community who wish to propagate the marijuana stigma, who use their platforms to accuse and demonize.
People like Councilman Steve Brandau, who had the impudence to ask a cannabis dispensary owner who spoke during public comment if he smoked pot. As if that's any of Brandau's business.
If that same person was applying for an alcohol license, Brandau would have never dreamed of asking if he drank. You can bet a three-martini lunch on that.
People like Pastor Elias Loera from Christian Temple Fresno, who is so incensed the city approved seven medicinal dispensaries that he threatened to "make sure 100,000" people knew how each council member voted.