Walls, like fences, make good neighbors, according to Robert Frost. But historically, it seems too often walls were built to keep people either out or in; they were relics of the past that lose their meaning while time moves on.

Bob Kalish observes life from a placid place on the island of Arrowsic (motto: You’re not in Georgetown yet). You can reach him at [email protected]

What set me off thinking was an article about the revenue made in Maine since we legalized the sale and/or use of cannabis. According to the Tax Foundation, in 2020 Maine collected more than $50 million in excise taxes. What is surprising is who is buying all that weed. Turns out to be gramps and grandma.

How things have changed. Growing up in the late 1940s and 1950s, on Friday nights my uncle and cousins would get in the old Packard and drive to the wrestling matches. We had a ritual where we would stop and get a bag of White Castles (a buck for a bag of 20 small burgers). Then the strange part: A few blocks later my uncle made a stop at Chester’s Smoke Shop, telling us kids to stay in the car. He came out empty-handed – he didn’t smoke.

In those days they could send you to jail if you placed a bet with a bookie like Chester. The vice squad staged raids occasionally, even at shops like Chester’s. If my Uncle Frank had been in the smoke shop at the wrong time, he would have been jailed for breaking the law. Now that it’s legal, he could place bets with a machine that would accept anyone’s money.

That was then, this is now, and I remember a famous photo of a body shot by an East German border guard while trying to escape over the wall to West Germany. You see, following World War II, Germany was split into two separate countries, one with a communist government aligned with Russia, the other aligned with the western democracies. So that dead German was either a West German or East German and that was why he was dead – he was on the wrong side, all because of an arbitrary line drawn on a map.

How would we react if, say, there was a boundary line drawn down the middle of Maine Street in Brunswick, with barbed wire and guardhouses, put there so none of us citizens could walk to the other side?

What started this train of thought was, I read that the business of marijuana has taken off in Maine and in other states where restrictions have loosened. Then it was a federal crime to possess marijuana; now it is on the shopping list.

Who’s buying the most? Now that it’s legal, senior citizens are slowly filtering back; a new market has opened with a new definition of senior citizens. (“Richie, don’t bother grandma when she’s stoned.”)

Imagine growing up seeing headlines like “Robert Mitchum arrested for possession” or “Tons of baled marijuana beached in Florida.”

So imagine the shock of walking into a shop where they sold all kinds of cannabis and remembering the days of law-abiding citizens sent to federal prison for possession. Just as if you were a real criminal. Just be sure you’re on the right side of the line.

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