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Miss Universe 

The Observer has been thinking about cannabis recently, the stuff our grandma called "The Marijuana," and Dear Ol' Pa called "Mary Jane" with the feeling of a man speaking fondly about a remembered former lover. Cannabis is what the dedicated people we've run into recently, who believe in the stuff as medicine more than they believe in Tylenol and Phillips Milk of Magnesia, call it most often. We'll let them call the ball.

At the peril of potentially enticing impressionable youths, The Observer will admit we have indulged in the intake of nonmedical, purely recreational cannabis in the past. Come and get me, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. We'll put on our tie-dye and Beatle boots for the perp walk if it makes you happy; we'll make for more drama when they run our televised moment of shame on Fox News, between the next Killer Immigrant segment and another roundtable on why Hillary Clinton should be drawn and quartered by four monster trucks on the National Mall.

We'll further admit, while we're admitting, that being high is not our favorite feeling in the world. The Observer, ever the captain of our own bodily starship like the rest of the 7 billion people in the world whether they know it or not, doesn't really care for that feeling of being chemically poleaxed. But to each his, her or their own.

Full confession, though: There was one memorable winter as a teenager when friends of ours lucked into a friend of a friend who had a reliable, reasonably priced supply of the stuff dreams are made of. Many nights of that winter were spent either on a desperate search for rolling papers or heading out into the frigid dark with a battery-powered spotlight and a .22 rifle to theoretically and illegally hunt the fat January rabbits that lurked in the bushes around daddy's field. Come and get me, director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission! Not only has the statute of limitations surely expired, we can assure you no rabbits died those nights, safe as they were from the unsteady aim of the Three Amigos of Ganja. It always ended with us flat on our backs in the stubbled winter field, bundled up and warmish in our hunting coats, momentarily fascinated to the point of speechlessness with the sky and stars and the idea that the universe goes on forever, man ... like, FOREVER forever. On one occasion, which has somehow managed to sneak into the jar where we keep those memories of perfect, high-definition clarity, The Observer and friends came back to Ma and Pa's farmhouse on the hill one night, eyes no doubt redder than Satan's jockstrap, to find Ma and Pa watching the Miss Universe pageant on their snowy, pre-cable TV. The Three Amigos sat on the couch, three birds in a row, and chuckled in slow motion at the funny-sounding names, Pa cutting his eyes at us from time to time in a mixture of annoyance and maybe amusement. Pa — that smart cookie and former lover of dear old Mary Jane — very likely knew exactly what was going on, and it wasn't because the pots in his kitchen were sadly devoid of fat January rabbits gone to Bunny Heaven. That's where the memory ends, but we've come to treasure it: a moment Pa knew Yours Truly was doing what he didn't care for us to do, but allowed us to make our own way into the world. It's an example we've tried to follow with Junior, even though his vice is playing seven straight hours of Call of Duty instead of smoking The Marijuana.

All this is about something and nothing, of course, the past and the future, age and youth, but also this plant that has been demonized and worshipped, praised and vilified, but is now on the verge of helping thousands of sick folks in Arkansas feel better. The Observer is not one of those folks, thank God, but still we think: Maybe we should hunt up a phone number for ol' Mary and give her another chance, just to see what happens. Or maybe not. We're too old these days for anybody to believe we've gone out stalking fat January rabbits by starlight.

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