A Joint Effort and a Knock on the Door

Ann’s wink wink-ing about weed brought back the vivid memory of that fateful night around 1976 when she and I lost our innocence – so to speak. Given that Louisiana’s three-year statute of limitations for possession has past, I feel it’s finally safe to talk openly about that experience. 

We were sitting on the couch in our living room while our little kids were (supposedly) asleep in their rooms.  I was trying to figure out how in the world to roll a joint (keep in mind that this was long before the Internet with how-to-roll-a-joint videos like this).  I had a pack of Zig-Zag cigarette papers I had sheepishly purchased from a local convenience store and a small stash of marijuana that a colleague had given me.  His neighbor had grown it and had purportedly dried it in his microwave.  Because this was the first time that Ann and I had engaged in this kind of illicit activity, we were pretty clueless and assumed that all of the stems and seeds were normal for this sort of thing. Evidently, according to Healthline, they weren’t.

Before continuing further with my confessional about becoming a user, you should know a little about two other ways that pot became a part of my life story.

Lighting up in Vietnam, circa 1969.

My first actual face-to-face encounter with marijuana came in 1969 while I was a fledgling lieutenant in charge of military detachment in Vietnam.  Up until then marijuana was just a vague something I had heard about but had never been close to. But close I did get. Prior to 1969 pot use among soldiers in Vietnam was relatively commonplace and not seen as a major issue. That all changed when, according to History.com

“… John Steinbeck IV, a Vietnam soldier and son of the Nobel-prize winning author, wrote an article for Washingtonian Magazine in January 1968 about the common use of marijuana among the troops, setting off a media firestorm. In response to the scrutiny, the Army began clamping down on marijuana usage, arresting roughly 1000 G.I.s per week for marijuana possession…”

This meant that even though in the midst of a war, a large part of my time as a unit commander was devoted to cracking down on pot smoking among my soldiers.  I conducted routine searches of the barracks for illegal substances and threatened Article 15s (docking pay mostly) for anyone caught with the substance.

However, I must admit that by the end of my tour in Vietnam I came to realize that pot smoking was much less of a problem than alcohol or the other drugs that GIs turned to.  In fact, one of my scariest moments was when one of my soldiers was brandishing a hand grenade while high on Binoctal (a readily-available drug).

A poster advertising Reefer Madness directed by Louis J. Gasnier, 1936. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The second way that pot came into my life is more academic – literally.  As a grad student I read Howard Becker’s 1953 classic research article “On Becoming a Marihuana User.” (Here’s why spelling marijuana with an h is not a typo). Up until this point in time marijuana use was considered to be a type of deviant behavior which could be best understood by examining individual psychological factors. Becker turned that notion on its head and demonstrated that becoming a marijuana user was a social process. You might say that such behavior was kind of a joint effort

I assigned Becker’s article to my classes many times over the years and also showed the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness which was described by one reviewer as the granddaddy of all ‘Worst movies’. The students loved it and always had a good laugh.

But let’s get back to that “joint effort” back in Baton Rouge. I finally managed to roll up a lumpy version of a “joint,” and lit it. Even though it was crackling and popping Ann and I gamely passed it back and forth like we had seen in the movies – inhaling and holding the smoke in our lungs for a few seconds. Nothing seemed to be happening beyond some choking and coughing. We sat there for a moment and decided to roll another one.

A frightening knock on our door!

About half way through our second joint we were jolted by a knock on the front door. No one ever, I mean ever, came to visit at 9:30. By now our house reeked of telltale smoke. We were sure that we were about to be busted. I could see the headlines in the Baton Rouge Advocate: LSU professor and wife busted for marijuana use while their children slept in the next room.

It turns out that the knocker was Betsy, our younger next door neighbor, who came over to ask if she could borrow our lawn mower in the morning. You can’t imagine how relieved we were as I closed the door hoping she hadn’t noticed the the overwhelming pot smell (In hindsight, she probably did and and decided that we may be cooler neighbors than she had realized).

At about the time I closed that door the tetrahydrocannabinol (aka, THC) from our two crackling/popping joints kicked in. As I recall I was pretty much mellowed out but Ann felt “couch locked” and disoriented. She was miserable and just wanted to curl up and wait for that the feeling to wear off.

So our first (and so far, last) experimentation with pot was pretty much a bummer. Of course, a lot of grass has grown under our feet since that memorable evening in the 1980s. Who knows, now that we’re at a different stage in our lives and have become big time food bloggers, we may just jump on that cannabis culinary band wagon and include some recipes for edibles that you can make at home. But don’t hold your breath.


  1. Deb says:

    A good morning laugh…Andy you are such a great story teller!! I could imagine you and Ann with your first joint experience, too funny!


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