The current debate over marijuana brought back some interesting memories of The Courier newsroom in the 1970s.
Pearl Mallon Nicholas was the society editor, later called the lifestyles editor and she always took a month off in December to go to Arizona.
My first full-time gig at the paper was a temporary one, subbing for Pearl while she took her trip. I was almost to finish my journalism training at Adams State and the experience would be good.
Imagine my amazement when she said she wasn’t going to get warm, she was going to go buy marijuana in a border town.
Pearl was older than most of us in the newsroom, wore her hair in a bun, wore pearls and dressed nicely. The stereotypical grandma.
She actually went to some of the teas she wrote about.
“You’re gonna get busted,” I warned. I was told that was the inevitable result of crossing the border in possession of cannabis sativa also known as marijuana, also known as grass, also known as pot.
She laughed. “Who is going to suspect me?”
She had a point.
Working on the “society desk,” I figured Pearl would be tempted to sip a bit of her herbal tea, such was the nature of the lifestyles beast.
Weddings were written up at length, with detailed descriptions of everything from the bridal gown to the cake to what the bride wore when she left for her honeymoon.
That was easy. My writing career had begun with a quest for deathless prose.
However, I got a call one day from a man who wanted to know if the paper printed divorce announcements.
“Do you want to include a photo?” I asked.
“No. Just have it say, ‘I will no longer be responsible for debts contracted by anyone other than myself.’”
I felt a bit of disappointment as I transferred him to the classified ad desk.
Pearl, where were you when I needed to deal with crazy people?
She was committed to making the trip. I asked her if she was going to smoke her border town purchase and she said she would make a strong tea of it and rub it on her hands to hold arthritis at bay. She added a little mineral oil so her hands wouldn’t crack.
Not long before I finished high school, I think it was my senior year, I watched “Reefer Madness,” a now-disgraced film about the effects of marijuana.
Originally financed by a church group under the title, Tell Your Children, the film was meant as a morality tale attempting to help parents warn about the dangers of cannabis use.
However, soon after the film was shot, it was purchased by producer Dwain Esper, who re-cut the film for distribution on the exploitation film circuit beginning in 1938–1939 through the 1940s and 1950s.
The film was "rediscovered" in the early 1970s and gained new life as an unintentional satire among advocates of cannabis policy reform. Critics, however, have panned it as one of the worst films ever made.
I figured Pearl had to have watched it.
She hadn’t. I asked her how she came to use the unusual liniment and she said it had been used for generations in her family.
Pearl went on her vacation, promising to bring me some of the special tea when she returned.
As I told the story, friends and co-workers were derisive when they reminded me that there had been pot at parties I had attended around the college. I just didn’t partake. The child of chain tobacco smokers, I was already having lung issues.
Today, what Pearl did is supported in the “grows,” where they extract THC and make it available medicinally.
When she returned, she brought me a little jar of pot liniment — marijuana tea mixed with mineral oil. I kept in on a shelf until it evaporated.
Pot has a place in humanity’s medicine chest, while the fears the old film sought to create do not.
As I listen to or read about the comments of speakers on both sides of the current controversy, Pearl’s memory awakens.
“If it’s this good, it can’t be that bad."