Will Salem, Mass. Man Change His Stance on Cannabis Legalization?
Sign up for theBluntness newsletter for all your latest cannabis news.
Meet William Legault. He lives and works in Salem, Mass. He has been a working man, a soldier and machinist. Today, he spends his time writing about local and political issues in his hometown. He is owner, publisher, editor, writer and photographer of Salem Digest, which features "people, politics and businesses of the Witch City." According to Legault, he also "sweeps the place out."
Around town, this renaissance man is affectionally known as "BaldBil." BaldBil was kind enough to ponder his "cannabis conundrum" for theBluntness from his "fully legal" state in his own words (just don't tell him we called him "nice").
There are times when I can be a bit cantankerous. As a gentleman of a certain age, I believe that I have that right. This does not mean, however, that I have a right to be unreasonable. For many years when marijuana legalization of any kind came up in discussion, I forgot about the part about being reasonable — in fact, I was unequivocally against it.
In high school in the 1970s, I had great personal problems that were not helped by a bad family situation. Marijuana became a close and trusted associate of mine. We spent a lot of time together every day. I would smoke in the morning. I would smoke at lunch. I would smoke at night. During this time, my grades suffered greatly. This failure was not caused by smoking. It stemmed from a feeling of hopelessness and despair I could not overcome except when I smoked or when I was running on the cross-county course or track for the Salem Witches. Both the grass and the distance running were my therapy, but I didn't know it then.
Leaving Salem for military service in 1979, I gave up the smoking except for an occasional lapse until the mid 1980s when I gave it up for good. Exercise alone became my therapy. For many years it worked well for me — I ran, played racquetball and softball, did calisthenics, lifted weights and ran miles and miles every week. There was also lots of drinking. Somewhere along the line, the drinking became dramatically less, but I never quit. I avoided cannabis and anything related to it and developed strong opinions against it.
Then, one day eight years ago, I was dumb enough to pursue and win elected office — a seat on the Salem, Mass. City Council. That election coincided with the medical marijuana movement here. Before I could think about it, those who used cannabis for medical purposes were messaging me, calling me, and approaching me. They all had stories. Many were detailed and compelling. Some of them I suspected just liked to smoke and saw this as a door to full legalization. At the time, I did not support that. But the medical proponents, in particular Nicole Snow, a young activist, won me over.
The first medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts, Alternative Therapies Group (A.G.T), opened here in Salem with my support as a city councillor on June 24, 2015. I.N.S.A Salem will become the second very soon to be followed by three more.
Last December, A.G.T. became the first retail cannabis spot in eastern Massachusetts. When the legalization ballot question came up in 2016, I voted "no" as a private citizen.
That was just me being cantankerous. Damned if I was going to let the stoners take over.
I was wrong. Reason had escaped me. Or, rather, I had shut it down.
Now I live in this brave new world. Recently, a friend persuaded me to take two hits from a vape pipe. I was destroyed and had to go home and hibernate. This stuff today is not what we smoked in 1978.
I cede the point and will fight no more. But I do, however, reserve the right to get grouchy when I have to walk through a cloud of smoke crossing the Boston Common.
Connect with BaldBil on everything Salem on Salem Digest's Facebook page.