The biggest potheads aren’t who you’d guess

Reprinted from the New York Post | Feb 7, 2017

NEW YORK – They are the city’s new pot-smoking professionals — ganja-puffing teachers, TV execs and businessmen who go about their daily routines while under the influence, thanks to the drug’s decriminalization.

“I started realizing a lot of my family smokes weed, and they’re all very successful adults,” said “Jake,” a 29-year-old TV writer in Midtown and small-business owner who regularly tokes up.

“So I was like, ‘Hey, maybe weed’s not too bad.’

“I feel a lot more comfortable being a smoker now that it’s less enforced.”

In 2011, the NYPD busted 50,000 people for lighting up in the five boroughs. By 2015, that number had dropped by 68 percent, to just 16,000.

During the same time, recreational pot use was legalized in eight states, and a law allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes passed in New York after years of lobbying Gov. Cuomo.

A downtown Manhattan mom said she’s even cool with lighting up during play dates.

“One time, [a friend and I] smoked and then let our 4-year-olds paint my daughter’s play table with nontoxic paint . . . [Smoking pot] lets me be more creative and more in tune with my kids,” the mom said.

A Brooklyn teacher told The Post that it’s a good thing city education officials don’t randomly test school workers for the drug.

“If they did . . . they’d probably have to fire about 85 percent of their staff,” she said.

Today’s pot puffers say they’re no head cases.

“There’s a big misconception that people that smoke are burnouts and sluggish,” said “Zach,” a marketing manager at a major New York television station.

“I’ve got a spring in my step. I’m always moving. I’m very high energy,” insisted the man, who has been smoking weed for the better part of 20 years but who, along with others interviewed by The Post, didn’t want his real name used.

According to a Gallup poll conducted in August, the number of American adults using marijuana has nearly doubled in the past three years.

In 2013, 7 percent said they take hits. In 2016, that number was up to 13 percent.

But all that puffing could lead to health problems, experts caution.

“Marijuana is absolutely harmful and absolutely addictive. The industry is selling a lie that marijuana is more or less harmless, and that’s just not true,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, the former senior adviser to the drug czar under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“Philip Morris said that 80 years ago about cigarettes, and this is the new Philip Morris — they’re saying the same thing.”

Sabet, who now heads Smart Approaches to Marijuana, one of the largest anti-pot-legalization groups in the country, said dope can seriously hurt developing minds and can also harm adults.

“Regular marijuana use is harmful. It impairs motor skills, cognitive skills and mental health,” he said, adding that regularly toking can also affect workplace performance.

That view is not shared by Zach, who said that pot actually helps him cope and that he has no trouble being productive.

“I work anywhere between 60 to 80 hours a week, and I also smoke weed every day, and I’m educated, and I do a good job,’’ he said.

“It’s not like I’m sitting on my butt all day in my sweats, smoking and eating Doritos and playing video games.”

Now that he’s in charge of other people, he waits until he gets home to smoke.Zach said that before he became a manager, he was “basically high 24/7” — often taking breaks from a prior TV gig to smoke behind the building, where he could blend in amid the chaos of Midtown.

“I don’t want to have a reputation. I want people to know me for my work and as a professional . . . I don’t want to be known as ‘the weed guy,’ ” the 30-something said.

Zach buys about an ounce of pot every three weeks, spending about $400 a month on his illicit stash. He said he smokes to help him sleep and relax, and even claims it improves his gym routine.

“I get very distracted at the gym, looking at my phone and ­e-mails from work and stuff . . . If I smoke before the gym, I’ll do the same amount I’d normally do, but it’ll take half the time because I’m focused on what I’m doing,” he said.

Some parents say puffs are even OK during kiddie play dates.

Melissa, a 30-something downtown nonprofit administrator, said she has smoked weed — and even offered it to her fellow parents — while their children played together.

“It’s not as if it happens all the time or it’s something I would do with a mom I have just met. Typically, we’ve already had a few getting-to-know-you conversations where we’ve talked about our pre-kid past,’’ she said.

“From there, it’s pretty easy to suss out whether we’re on the same page.”

Melissa said smoking can make her feel like a better parent.

If I smoke before the gym, I’ll do the same amount I’d normally do, but it’ll take half the time because I’m focused on what I’m doing.

“It’s not like I’m getting high so much as relaxing,” she said, noting the time she and a friend got high and let their kids paint a table.

“It would be something I would never have done if I hadn’t smoked because I would have been panicked about the mess,’’ she said.

Melissa said getting high is better than drinking.

“I’m never not aware. I have friends who go to play dates and drink a whole bottle of wine. They’re drunk. I think that’s a lot more dangerous than smoking a quarter of a joint,” she said.

‘Sherry,’’ a Brooklyn special-ed teacher, said she is more comfortable smoking now that weed has been decriminalized.

“I feel a little better that it’s a ticketable offense as opposed to an arrestable offense,’’ she said.

Forget that her fiancé is an NYPD cop.

“He tells people, ‘My girlfriend is the most functional pothead you’ve ever met in your life,’ ” Sherry, who is in her 30s, said, giggling, adding that her fiancé definitely has no plans to report her.

“But, obviously, you’re still nervous” about word getting out, Sherry said, explaining that she fears she’d be fired if her bosses knew she used marijuana.

Sherry said she smokes after work every day to help her focus on paperwork and to relax after teaching developmentally challenged teens.

“If I didn’t smoke a bowl, I couldn’t write a paper. I’d sit there for hours not being able to do it, and I’d take a hit, and then a 15-page paper would come pouring out of me,” she said.

In high school, Sherry said she could “barely get by.”

“In college, I graduated cum laude,” she added.

America’s love affair with pot goes back centuries.

In 1619, the Virginia Assembly passed legislation requiring every farmer to grow hemp, which was used as legal tender in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland.

By the late 19th century, pot was a popular medicine sold openly in pharmacies.

But marijuana started getting a bad rap in the 1930s, when the nation’s booze ban was being overturned and the federal Department of Prohibition’s top guy, Harry Anslinger, shifted his attention, according to Johann Hari’s best-selling book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.”

Hari writes that police departments across the nation had beefed up their staffs to enforce the alcohol ban at the height of the Great Depression. Once the ban was lifted, they wouldn’t need so many men. So to prevent the officers from having to hit the bread line, Anslinger set his targets on marijuana, Hari says.

Anslinger, the future first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, started a massive anti-marijuana campaign to turn Americans against the “demon weed,” which was blamed for causing “delirious rage” and “inevitable insanity.”

Still, Anslinger needed evidence, so he wrote to the 30 leading scientists on the subject asking whether marijuana was dangerous; 29 wrote back saying it wasn’t, Harl said.

The one scientist who agreed with Anslinger was presented to the world, and the rest was history. Until now.

In October, a Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Americans support marijuana use — the highest number in 47 years.

Additional reporting by Anna Davies

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