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The Inside Dope on the Staffers at the Marijuana Policy Project

As If

March 23, 2001|GENE WEINGARTEN | WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON — I just got back from the office of the Marijuana Policy Project, a reputable Washington lobbying organization dedicated to bringing about the repeal of harsh and, um, unfair and harsh, uh, what was I . . . whoa, did you know that when you hit the "Num Lock" key, a light goes on?

Ha-ha. That is typical druggie humor of the sort that really cheeses off the folks at the Marijuana Policy Project. I decided to visit them after receiving one of their news releases and being impressed with its earnestness.

The MPP is, apparently, all business. It supports the decriminalization of marijuana and an end to restrictions on its use for medicinal purposes. To achieve credibility, its lobbyists must present themselves as cleareyed representatives of an organization dedicated to fostering a climate of justice and tolerance, as opposed to an organization dedicated to fostering a climate where you can stroll the streets sucking on a doobie the size of a dachshund. The MPP's co-founder and communications director is Chuck Thomas.

At 31, Chuck is a wizened old geezer compared with most of his staff. And this gave me an idea: Here was a golden opportunity to rekindle a spirit of joyful sedition from a bygone time, a chance to reach warmly across a generational divide and bond with America's youth, plus ask questions that would make ol' Chuck squirm like a maggot on a rump roast in a south Florida Dumpster.

*

Chuck informed me that to avoid trivializing the issue, he declines to answer irrelevant questions about personal marijuana consumption.

No problemo, I said. "So, do you ever get really, really, really hungry for no good reason?"

No, he said. He can pretty much always eat, even after a big meal.

"Did you ever listen to music and hear some extra notes you never noticed before that sound really good?"

He loves music, he said, and appreciates tonal nuances.

Desperate, I pulled out a tape recorder and played him that old "Dave's not here" routine from Cheech and Chong, in which a man who has just purchased some weed and is being pursued by the cops cannot gain entrance to his own house because his roommate is too stoned to realize who is at the door.

"Perhaps," I said, hopefully, "you might recognize a certain, shall we say, familiar state of mind . . . ?"

"It is funny," Chuck said, "but I cringe on a sociopolitical level. It contributes to government propaganda by suggesting that marijuana makes people permanently stupid instead of affecting their short-term memory, and only for the period of time they are under the influence."

I was in despair. We were talking about weed all right, but we were not getting down. We were not grooving. Was there no way of breaching this wall, of finding common ground? Prosecutorially, I reached into my briefcase and whipped something out. "Can you not identify . . . this?" I asked.

"It is a coat hanger with a knotted plastic dry-cleaning bag hanging from it."

Oh, man.

*

We went into the anteroom, where his youthful, clean-cut staff was working. Can anyone, anyone identify this object?

Nope. Nuh-uh. No.

So I hung the coat hanger from a door frame and let the knotted bag dangle. I put a pan under it, then lit it like a fuse.

It flared. It fumed. It dripped down in little hiccups of liquid plastic, making a weird zzzzip noise. I hadn't witnessed this in 30 years. It's something I and half a million other collegians did in our dorm rooms, around 2 a.m., while listening to the Moody Blues and squirting Cheez Whiz directly into our mouths.

"Pretty neat, huh?" I said.

Silence.

"It's called a zip candle," I said. Zzzip.

"Uh, it's better at night," I said, wanly.

Zzzip.

"It's sort of interesting," a young woman offered, kindly.

As I slouched away, they were typing press releases and grousing about the smell of plastic in the air.

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