Post-64: Day One

I’m sitting on my friend’s balcony watching the ducks below on my first day of Trump’s America. I’ve known Tom and Louise since college, he was one of my groomsmen, she my primary smoking partner for a decade, so their apartment seemed the ideal place to celebrate the passage of Prop 64 and similar measure from Nevada to Massachusetts. I took my first drag on a magic stick from San Jose’s Purple Lotus and as the flower, kief and hash oil wove themselves through me, I began to contemplate the new legal reality we have found ourselves in.
I spent many years of my marijuana smoking career as a criminal, mostly possession, a short stint in sales, the occasional transporting across state lines. But in 2008, I got a new coworker who was proudly out of the green closet. Jon was a diabetic, and he found cannabis helped him cope, mostly because it’s better for your blood sugar than gin. I was nervous about signing up medical marijuana, as I had enough semi-reliable dealers to keep me covered, worried about being on a list, and wasn’t in any way sick. But Jon was a determined evangelist, and convinced me that, since Obama was expected to be more lenient on the subject than his predecessor, my gift to myself for his election should be signing up. So a week after Election Day I strolled into MediCann with a memorized list of other people’s experiences with insomnia, and strolled back out having been asked zero questions about said insomnia with a cannabis prescription. That evening, I got high in the hills of San Carlos, no longer a criminal, but instead a licensed patient. I was now a sick man, but the cure was easily at hand.
The difference was night and day. First of all, dispensaries beat the hell out of drug dealers. It’s hard to be a choosy consumer when in the passenger seat of a relative stranger’s truck while he looks around for cops and hands you what he says is an honest eighth. Instead, I walked into Grass Roots on Post and Polk, sidled up to the bar, asked what was good, and got the most informed answer I had ever received. I got a crash course on indicas and sativas, looked at the buds through a magnifying glass, and walked out with two eighths, one of Trainwreck, one of Blackberry Kush, a bit of hash, a pre-rolled joint, and a whole new perspective. I finally started figuring out what strains I preferred and was able to better pair my collection with my evening plans. I could take advantage of sales and bulk purchases, rarely an option in the black market. It was also nice having a storefront instead of a connection, as storefronts don’t stop answering their phones for three days, nor do they make you feel obligated to come to their improv show (wasn’t enough green in the state to save that evening). Even with their scarcity in some parts of the state (including my home in San Mateo County) having posted hours and a regular schedule was a great convenience. As a result, I haven’t suffered through a drought in 8 years.
More than that, there was a shift in how I perceived my own cannabis use. Before, while not exactly a secret, my use was something I kept close to my chest as I still considered it something that could cost me my freedom and employment if it came up in the wrong circumstances. With a card in my wallet, this changed. At concerts or outdoor venues (Bless you Zeitgeist) I’d light up freely, respecting the space of those around me, but not fearing consequences for what should be a consequence free act. No more sneaking, no more keeping a stash in the trunk in a gym bag under a blanket. My proudest moment as a patient is when a Belmont officer, having pulled me over for rolling a stop sign, said he smelled marijuana in the car as he handed me the ticket. I pulled out my card, put my hand on my stash, and said I hadn’t partaken but did have it in the car, at which point he asked me to drive safe and have a good night. My passenger, a six foot eight Senegalese immigrant marveled at this act of privileged wizardry, as I thanked both Jah and Jon for their role in my salvation.
With my history, I can’t say my first legal high was profoundly different than my first medical one. I made the choice to become legally compliant years ago, and I have felt free since then. But I am eager to have more company. Since my first experience with cannabis 17 years ago, I have considered its use to be a freedom everyone should be able to enjoy. Prohibition was a failure practically, fiscally, and morally, but that doesn’t encapsulate all the reasons why it was a backwards policy. Cannabis allows me to think more freely, to find joy in small things that often pass my notice. It lets me get more in touch with my emotions, and makes me more thankful for those I am close to. My three vices are food, sex, and pop culture, and cannabis use enhances and heightens my appreciation of all three. I partake far less than I used to, but it still brings me a great deal of happiness, and I am eager to exploring its use and the culture surrounding it as it becomes more available to all Californians. Since the days of jazz musicians and beatniks, up through the hippies into hip-hop, cannabis has been defined by its illegality. It has given this plant an outlaw appeal, and its users enjoyed a sense of fraternity. To smoke with a stranger was to embark on a mutual risk, to enter into a trust, and to share an experience that was legally dangerous while otherwise safe. Going forward we will form a new ethic, a new aesthetic, a new set of rituals and customs. I look forward to learning all I can of it.


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