Do you miss being forced to listen to conspiracy theories before buying weed?
It’s been less than five years since Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana but the culture has already radically changed. Dispensaries and luxury cannabis goods have transformed the legal weed experience from shady to classy. The coded subculture of illegal cannabis remains in prohibition states, only now it’s been fused with the legal culture that leaks over from the West Coast.
I talked to three weed enthusiasts who have seen the drug through prohibition and various stages of legality:
Martin A. Lee is a cannabis historian and author of Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational, and Scientific, tracking cannabis in North America from its early incarnations in the upper class tea houses of the late 19th century to prohibition in the mid 20th century.
Box Brown is a New York Times bestselling cartoonist and author of the upcoming Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America, a cartoon history of the racism behind weed prohibition. He lives in Philadelphia, where weed is decriminalized (equivalent to a parking ticket) but has friends in Colorado, the Mecca for legal pot.
Finally, I talked to David Schmader, author of Weed: The User’s Guide and a lifelong pot lover. In his 2015 TEDx talk “Coming Out Stoner,” Schmader explores the stigmas that remain for “cannabis enjoyers” even in legal states like his own Washington.
All three potheads shared what they miss and don’t miss about the quickly evaporating secretive subculture of cannabis in the U.S.
What Stoners Miss
As legal dispensaries pump out their own strains, Brown is sad to see classic strain names like Alaskan Thunderfuck and even OG Kush disappear. “They’re changing the names of strains you’ve known and loved forever. To like, Laughter and stuff like that. That’s really bad. That’s taking everything away. That would be like changing the name of beer to, like, chill water.”
Meanwhile, Lee is dumbfounded by dispensaries in places like San Francisco that let you vape on the premises and everyone vapes their own. “I found that very odd,” he says. “Cannabis in a social setting means, at least for me, you roll a joint and you share it.” Of course, he also says he does not miss people bogarting joints. “You just can’t do that.”
Brown, too, says he sees this more individualistic stoner attitude taking hold in legal states. In his state of Pennsylvania, where weed is still illegal, people are still “super willing” to share their haul. When he travels to see friends in places like Denver, CO, however, “everyone takes care of their own situation.” You can run to the store and buy your own weed whenever.
He compares sharing cannabis in those areas to cigarettes. “Like, yeah you can bum a cigarette off me” but *side eye* get your own.
What They Don’t Miss
Despite the love for that sharing cannabis culture, some weed enthusiasts in legal states, like Schmader, say they don’t miss putting up with weird shit from their dealers just to get their hands on bud. “That dealer is taking all these risks for your pleasure,” says Schmader. “So you have no leverage.” He recalls the one dealer he had throughout most of the ‘90s, who was a “bigfoot aficionado.” He wanted to remain friendly, because “I’m a friendly guy” and because, well, he wanted his drugs.
“So I had to watch documentaries. I had to hold, like, a plaster cast of a Bigfoot footprint that was ordered on the internet. You have to be on time and you can’t be mad if they’re late. You have to listen to their talks about chemtrails and Bigfoot. You just have to smile and smile.”
Schmader also doesn’t miss all those texts, calling it a “lovely thing” to cut out the six or seven he had to send just to get cannabis. “It’s a lost culture, sure, but it’s a wonderful thing to be able to go to a store that’s open regular hours and there’s no texts about fuzzy green sweaters.”
As for Brown, he doesn’t miss nearly killing all his friends with mystery edibles. He marvels at how much information about dosing is available now. Even in illegal states, knowledge and awareness about strain potency filters over from legal states. “Everyone knows their limits, everyone knows the dose.” It’s a much cleaner situation than when he was making brownies in his 20s with his friends. They just pooled all the random weed they had, steeped it in butter to make “enough brownie mix that fit this one pan we had” before cutting it into “you know, like nine regularish sized brownies.” Naturally, they were then comatose for about 12 hours.
What Hasn’t Changed
Legalization hasn’t been around very long and it’s still not universal across the country, so the stigma of weed consumption lingers. And, as Schmader points out, “people like stereotypes. So they’re still trafficking the ‘oh, you got high last night?…’ in a way they never would with a wine tasting.”
“We need to talk about this so they know all the high functioning people in their lives might also be cannabis enjoyers.”
High high functioning people, one could say.