In the days before the Internet, there was this thing that people in my profession used to do called “research.” I won’t bore you with details, but it often involved trips to the library, personal interviews and the occasional scientific experiment.
I am not particularly proud of the fact that, as a young man, 17 years old if memory serves, in the passenger seat of a Plymouth Barracuda, my own personal scientific experiments on marijuana use commenced.
It was never steady use, probably less than six times until I was 20. To be quite honest, it never did much for me. Beer was far more readily available, not to mention legal, even if I started drinking when it was not exactly kosher for me to be doing so. Eventually my age caught up with the law and, at that point, if there was someone who was enjoying alcohol anymore than I was, he probably needed an intervention.
But my clinical work on weed was not quite yet done. The marijuana use returned, at least on the weekends, when I started dating a certain young lady who was quite fond of the stuff. I was never what anyone would have called a “pothead,” but for a while there, me and the girlfriend were putting a dent in the local harvest.
Truth be told, I still wasn’t really enjoying it as much as I did drinking, but because she was “all in,” I kinda felt the need to keep up. We ended up compromising after a while, and when we chose to “party” as our adult schedules of work and school would allow us, the older we got, the less and less we smoked. I would say the last year we actively did it… it was maybe half a dozen times? Who can remember such things exactly, especially if the weed was decent.
I do remember the reason we made the conscious decision to stop all of it, and put it behind us for good. Three words sum up the decision, and the genesis of the epiphany that would keep us on the straight and narrow: Christine Baxter Rhodes.
Bringing a child into the world often brings out much better behavior in human beings, and heightens our legitimate concerns that we now have something much more important to “behave for,” other than our own respect for the law.
Frankly, what some politicians believe should be off limits and illegal often is in direct contrast to common sense, moral codes and consistent, intelligent thinking. If I know something is right for me, and it does not harm others or infringe on property rights, then my only reason for obeying said law is the fear of the consequences of breaking it and the resulting sanctions.
The bottom line is our daughter deserved smarter parents than we would be if we continued to put our personal reputations and careers at risk over such a trivial matter. Pot simply didn’t mean anything compared to our family. So no more. We were done.
My confession in this column does serve to set up my case. The topic of legalizing marijuana has come up many times over the years, and on one afternoon in 1997, on my radio show, I was making a point of contrasting my own personal experiences with the herb as it compared to alcohol. I shared a few articles discussing the serious hypocrisy of so many beer, wine and liquor fans being so furiously opposed to legalizing weed, and the far more serious danger alcohol use posed to the human body.
After a rousing few broadcast hours, I wrapped it up and headed to the door.
In the lobby, she was standing there waiting for me. A tiny little thing, who looked like Annie Hall’s little sister, complete with a black fedora cocked ever so slightly to the side of her head. She had a stack of papers in her arms that easily outweighed her, and a smile on her face that reminded me of the way my cat used to look when he would present me with a dead bird.
“Hey there… you must be Austin… love your show, and man were you right today!”
I knew I was, but it was always cool to meet adorable women who felt the need to hunt me down and tell me so. (Still is, actually.)
“I agree with what you were saying today, and here is some material to back it up, just in case you ever need it… my name is Renee.”
Oh boy… a beautiful groupie with a library card!
Well, she was much more than that. Her name was, and still is, Dr. Renee Kohanski. And she was, and still is, one of the most brilliant women I have ever had the privilege to get to know. But don’t take my word for it, check out her published resume:
“Dr. Kohanski is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology and is a Board Certified physician in the area of psychiatry. She has added Board Certified qualifications in the field of forensic psychiatry. Dr. Kohanski has a broad reaching psychiatric practice including but not limited to: Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Complicated psychopharmacology, Impulse control disorders, Personality Disorders, and Relationship Difficulties.
Dr. Kohanski graduated from New York Medical College and received the prestigious Cor Et Manus award for service at graduation. She completed her internship and residency at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C., her last year serving as Chief Resident. Dr. Kohanski went on to complete a fellowship year in Forensic Psychiatry at the William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute at the University of South Carolina.”
Within the pages she held in her hot little hands was research put together by some of the best minds in her field, and look at that, it seemed to back up my “practical experience” as the scientific standard: “Marijuana as a drug, and a harmful substance, does not seriously compare to the addictive and deadly complications that often accompany alcohol use.”
Of course, she did not advocate the use of marijuana, and neither do I, as a matter of healthy living. But we agreed that when it comes to the eternal hypocrisy of the American legal and political systems on the criminalization of marijuana, elected officials are all wet when they attempt to portray the herb as more dangerous, or even equally as dangerous, as alcohol.
Based on that first meeting, I invited Renee to become a regular guest on my show and, for several years, she was quite the hit! “Dr. K” went on to become one of my dearest and most trusted friends, and even though she and her husband Phil moved back up north years ago, we stay in touch almost every week. She took her radio experiences on my show, and parlayed them into more opportunities, and a cool career as a radio talkshow host, all on her own.
Did I mention that she is a conservative? She sure is, and allow me to glow in the irony of the fact that the two of us seem to agree with President Obama on the topic of marijuana vs. alcohol: Marijuana is bad. Alcohol is worse… and far more deadly.