Being an advocate for something you believe in, isn’t always pretty. Growing up in a conservative family it wasn’t the subject of choice. Especially if the subject matter is as controversial as cannabis.
I’ve been an activist for cannabis legalization since the late 90s when I was active in the Green Leaf party in Israel. They run on a parliamentary system there, and the thought of a cannabis party getting into the government was too delicious. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get enough seats, but even then I loved the thrill of the movement. I was hooked.
Cannabis access in Israel during the second intifada was challenging at best. We would complain and moan with the cannabis available. It was filled with sticks, seeds, and even desert sand to weigh it down. Later you were lucky if you saw anything green after they closed the border crossings and most of the underground trade was cut.
I do miss that nice Moroccan style hash I would be able to find back in the day during that time in Israel. I miss all the fun festivals I used to attend. Even though cannabis was very illegal in Israel, use was widespread among young people. Many of us travelled around the world and experienced cannabis in all its different forms. But that was not the case among the older generation. One thing I do not miss is being accused of being “the bad one” in my family.
My fourteen year old cousin gave me my first cigarette when I was 16 while spending the summer there. By our twenties, she introduced me to the world of hashish, chillums, and would regale me with her many tales of her crazy experiences in India.
All that changed when she was caught with a bag. She fabricated a story that made me the fall guy. I was the bad influence and was ostracized from the only family I had within 5000 miles. It was always the other way around, as I was the one who grew up pretty sheltered and innocent in comparison.
They were my family in Israel. I spent every holiday and vacation as an “adopted daughter” and dreamed of a time when I would have my children join the large family gatherings we had on a weekly basis. Her turning on me came at the perfect time. I was getting serious with my eventual husband, and I started spending more holidays and Shabbat dinners with his family. So the betrayal didn’t hurt as much since I had created a new family.
I didn’t blame her father, after all it’s easy to blame another when your youngest daughter was out of control with her use. I remember being horrified by the stories she’d tell as a social worker dealing with some real emergencies with children. All while she was barely able to function. My cousin always tended to over do things and get couch locked. Other bad decisions like driving around with young nieces and nephews while under the influence. She became out of control but no one noticed but me. So I was gone.
I never told anyone because I knew it wouldn’t change anything. She wouldn’t stop the behavior and it would’ve probably been ignored or worse. I always thought there’d be time to make things right. I didn’t know how to vindicate myself without damning her and I couldn’t do that to her father. I had hoped one day to bring my cousin to cannatech in Tel Aviv and have him listen to me do my thing. I wanted him to finally see me. I wanted to make him proud. I wanted him to see after so many failed attempts, I’d finally found something I was proud and passionate about.
I missed seeing the family our last visit to Israel. I tried reaching out but I honestly didn’t make a real effort as time was very limited. I thought there was always next year. I will always regret that I didn’t say goodbye.
Today I wrote to all the younger generation, wishing them a happy holiday and updating them on news here. I got the response. He died 2 months ago. He was the grandfather I wanted to have but didn’t. He was my family. I never got to say goodbye. He died thinking I was a drug dealer that corrupted his baby. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth.
Don’t wait. Time we have is precious. If we learn anything from this lockdown it’s that we don’t always have the time we think we will have to fix things later. So don’t waste the time you have and give those loved ones an extra hug.