High Times on the Main Line

And in Chestnut Hill. And Blue Bell. And many more of Philadelphia’s most buttoned-down places. How a generation of otherwise straitlaced moms and dads are rediscovering their inner stoners … and making pot legit

went to a “big fancy party on the Main Line recently where I met all these 40ish women who invited me to smoke.” Steve didn’t join in the fun, but one imagines the night devolving into a hashish-laced cougarfest, à la the orgy scene in Zoolander. With celebrities openly smoking pot and the ’70s now idealized as a golden era of pre-yuppiedom, pot was seemingly bound to make a comeback.

Not only is weed acceptable these days; it’s carefully accessorized. “Everyone has their classic little Murano pipes, hand-blown in Italy,” notes Bridget, the Bryn Mawr mom, of her friends who are into marijuana. “I’ve been to a girls’ night out where we smoked pot in the limo on the way to a concert. We just put the barrier up and the windows down, and the driver didn’t say anything.” Perhaps that’s the way to endure the endless construction on the Blue Route and Shore traffic this summer.

And soon, marijuana will be legally available just across the river in New Jersey, at least for easing the pain associated with diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, seizure disorder and multiple sclerosis. Former governor Jon Corzine signed the bill into law in January, and with a doctor’s recommendation, residents will shortly be able to purchase pot at licensed outlets, assuming their request is approved by the state. Jersey is one of 14 states with such laws, the most famous being California, where marijuana has been approved for medical use since 1996. There, attitudes about pot are so liberal that a developer recently announced that the historic downtown-L.A. hotel the Normandie would reopen as a “po-tel,” a pot-friendly hotel. At pot dispensaries on the West Coast, such stonerish-sounding varietals of bud as Platinum Headband, Strawberry Kush and L.A. Confidential are on offer, lined up like coffee options at Starbucks.

But then again, that’s California. You’d expect such a live-and-let-live vibe in that magnificently sunny state, but here in proper Philadelphia?

Chris Goldstein, a writer and radio host who’s a board member of PhillyNORML (the local branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), says the very secrecy in which people veil their smoking is the Catch-22-ish reason why pot hasn’t been decriminalized yet. “While there is an uptick in people using it, and a growing connoisseur market that will pay more for good marijuana, they also have the most to lose by standing up for it,” he notes. “There are some suburban soccer-mom groups and parents’ groups emerging to support medical marijuana and call for decriminalization, but there are millions of people using it every day, and the most remarkable thing is the job they do hiding it.” (And only some people are getting caught. One recent analysis showed that though white women and African-American women in Philadelphia are believed to smoke marijuana at near-equal levels, black women are much more likely to be arrested. Only 90 white women in Philly were arrested for having small quantities of pot in 2008, while 345 African-American women were arrested that same year for the same crime.)