THE first time I saw a marijuana plant was when I was in high school. I was in the boarding house of a classmate who kept a plant in a pot on the roof below his room’s window. He obviously smoked the leaves of the plant later, but that was when I was no longer around. We were young and into hard rock music but the most that I did was drink liquor and smoke cigarettes a little. I was never into marijuana.
The next time marijuana came into the picture was in the ‘80s when I was in the countryside. Somebody or some group introduced the plant to the farmers and that changed the complexion in some parts of the Cebu mountains. Farmers earned more planting marijuana than planting corn and cash crops like tomatoes, baguio beans, etc. and even got more from it than tending to the mango plants there.
Interestingly, marijuana is still being grown in the Cebu mountains as proven by the raids, intermittent these may have become though, followed by the burning of uprooted plants. Of course, growing marijuana is risky and tedious and its effect on the body less fulfilling for addicts, that is why it has been supplanted by shabu, which is chemical-based and easily produced in bulk.
But marijuana has not left really and is even considered more and more as “harmless”— yes, as “harmless” as, say, cigarettes. That must be in the mind of President Duterte when he joked about smoking it to keep himself awake and alert for the lengthy Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit activit i es.
I have heard that said by taxi drivers a number of times. To keep themselves awake and alert the whole night in a 24-hour grind, they supposedly use marijuana. Some taxi operators are reportedly tolerant of marijuana use but others are strict. I don’t know the setup now after the Duterte administration intensified its drive against the illegal drugs trade.
In the place where I grew up in Sambag 2, some of my kababata used to smoke marijuana but we took that lightly and we even merely joked about its effect. Overall, marijuana use wasn’t much of a problem compared with shabu, which became an even bigger business. Marijuana is considered less harmful than shabu but one can still get arrested for mere possession of it.
When I was detained at the old Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center, which was located in Barangay Apas in the late ‘80s, I befriended a man who was caught possessing marijuana.
Ironically, marijuana was sold in the jail at that time and at times one could smell the smoke wafting from the “kubol,” a makeshift room made from sacks, in our “brigada.”
Every time somebody smokes marijuana, I would look at the man and rib him about it. “You have been jailed for months now for what?” I would ask him. He would just smile and shake his head every time. But one good thing about his experience is that he never smoked marijuana inside. Judging from his complexion and look, I say the man was from a well-off family.
They say marijuana can have medical uses. But can it straighten the thinking of the public official who uses it?