Today, April 21, 2022, people will be able to buy recreational marijuana legally at more than a dozen distilleries across New Jersey. It’s an appropriate and high time to repost a commentary I wrote about the topic last year, shortly after Gov. Phil Murphy signed off on the law.  

Earlier this week, legislation officially legalized the recreational use of cannabis in the Garden State, making it the 13th state to make it legal to sell and smoke marijuana. Thousands of residents, young and old, cheered. Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure to legalize weed back in November. However, due to red tape, regulations, and restrictions, the final bill took several months to make it to the governor’s desk. It will take at least another year before someone can trot down to the neighborhood weed distillery and buy an ounce of the green herb.

As someone who grew up during the 1970s and 1980s, I remember hearing the words pot, joint, and marijuana often. I mostly listened to the words uttered in the hallways at school, in the gym locker room—or in that notorious breeze-way in high school. Back then, I would  stare in amazement when I saw someone taking a puff or two on one of those “Funny-looking cigarettes.” In college, the jargon and prevalence were more frequent. Despite being in a higher education utopia, a nickel bag, dime bag, a bong hit, and overhearing a dorm roommate asking someone at a keg party, “Hey man, you wanna get high?“—became mainstays during my college days.

Fast forward nearly 40 years later, and I am watching people celebrate the legalization of a substance that I was always told was dangerous and unhealthy. I decided to see if weed had changed or if I had changed. Earlier this week, two young co-workers were chatting about how happy they were that recreational pot was legal. The two co-workers, both men–one 19 and the other in his early 20’s, talked about how it was about time cannabis became legal. They also mentioned how a toke or two of a good blunt could relax and unwind a person. I likened it to when I was their age; people, including me, always said how a shot of scotch, vodka or whiskey “Helps take the edge off!”

I asked them, “Can people still buy a nickel or dime bag?” The younger one stared at me with a dumbfounded look and said, “I don’t know what that is.” The other said, “Maybe somewhere deep in the ‘hood you could find it, but it wouldn’t be very much.” He explained to the younger guy what nickel and dime bags were–($5 and $10 worth of pot) and how they were virtually non-existent in today’s high-priced underground weed market. Later, I laughed. As a man in his 50’s, having a conversation with two people more than 30 years younger than me about smoking pot was about as much fun as having my yearly prostate exam! And a stark reminder that times have changed!

I won’t say if I plan to indulge in the newfound freedom of lighting up a joint while sipping on a vodka spritzer at my favorite outdoor watering hole this summer. I haven’t decided if I will be a participant or an observer. However, I will say that I have taken some financial experts’ advice and purchased a few hundred shares of stocks in various cannabis companies. I call the profitable investments my weed stash!!

Glenn Townes

I'm an award winning journalist based in Edison, NJ. My work has been featured in dozens of publications including, Black Enterprise magazine; ESSENCE magazine and Real Health magazine. I am also a featured...

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