When cannabis became recreationally legal to consume in Illinois on July 1, permission was granted to those who were curious about its healing and transformative properties, but unwilling to break a law or apply for a medical card.

Many were deterred from the generations-long “war on drugs”, starting with propaganda films like the Reefer Madness where one puff could land you in a looney bin. In my case Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” cameo on Diff’rent Strokes in the early 80’s planted a seed in my 8-year old brain that pot was a bad thing that only bad people did. Then I discovered Louis Armstrong smoked daily and was reassured. 

While younger generations who group up with more forgiving and celebratory media depictions of the plant tend to be more informed about its impacts and dosage levels, many curious 50-somethings and beyond have no idea where to begin – and in what quantities they should be imbibing. 

“Our first purchase of edibles was 100 miligrams and if we took it all at once I think we’d be dead,” explained Dan Miller, longtime Chicago business journalist and my former editor at the Chicago Sun-Times. Miller, who lived most of his life believing marijuana was taboo, decided to experiment with the plant while looking for options to treat his wife’s dementia. 

“We tried everything: drugs, pills, mindfulness. When we decided we were going to try marijuana we had no direction. We went slow and low to see how things would work out.”

Through “trial and error” and a bit of “spinning walls” Miller found a proper dosage for his wife and has a new appreciation for pot’s potential treatment qualities. His mission now is to provide more information and insight to others who don’t know where to begin.

On Friday at noon CST, Miller will be part of a Beginner’s Guide to Marijuana Zoom Webinar, hosted by The Village Chicago, which dispenses life advice to the 50+ set. During the program, he will discuss the history, myths and misconceptions of cannabis consumption with Dr. Richard Miller, Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. 

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.