WASHINGTON: Roger Roffman is a UW professor emeritus of social work who has studied marijuana dependence interventions for 30 years, and was a sponsor of Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana in Washington. He answered a few questions about his new book, “Marijuana Nation: One Man’s Chronicle of America Getting High: From Vietnam to Legalization.”
Q: Your first experience with marijuana laws was during a court martial for a fellow soldier in Vietnam who was caught with the equivalent of 10 joints. How did that start your journey as a marijuana activist?
A: In 1967 I was a social work officer with the 9th Infantry Division. Doing that work, I began to have an inkling of what we’d much later recognize as the severe psychological injuries many soldiers experienced. Alcohol was the universal de-stressor, with shared drinking contributing to group cohesion and camaraderie. While illegal under the Code of Military Justice, shared pot smoking appeared to fulfill a similar purpose. When serving on the board that conducted that soldier’s court martial, I argued imprisonment would be excessive given the context. I was outvoted, he went to jail for four months, and the injustice of that penalty troubled me.