My boyfriend was pretty excited today. Why? Because today was the first day he had cannabis delivered.
Ah the future. Where you can literally hop on your computer, put in an order for Humboldt sativa, maybe a few indica minis, and thirty minutes to an hour later… cannabis at your door. With taxes and fees, you definitely pay for convenience, but heavens is it nicer than code words like “1/8th of cucumber” texted to some friend of a friend with no assurances they’ll come through.
But are we boring now?
I remember the old days when knowing who had weed was a stressor and the power you could feel as someone who “had a guy”. Never mind that “the guy” was unreliable. Never mind it was ALWAYS awkward buying weed from someone who was an acquaintance or, worse, really took the concept of being a dealer to paranoid highs. I can’t be the only one who got a tongue lashing for accidentally saying “marijuana” out loud in a dealers’ presence. We’d nod our heads at early legalization activism and wistfully imagine traveling to Amsterdam. Man, cannabis could be a real serious subject for something we used in the back of the Poor Billy’s Seafood Restaurant kitchen.
But times changed and they changed fast. In 2013, I moved from Hawaii, where weed was practically currency, to Los Angeles into a studio apartment with my then-boyfriend. I had no job, no friends, and no money. I found an 1/8th of weed in my travel duffel bag, stowed away accidentally, that had somehow escaped both my attention and the TSA’s. For a little while, I had a break from white-knuckling my kneecaps looking for work. Those first few weeks in LA were filled with smoking up after a day of begging for work door-to-door and then hiking for an hour or two until the dark of night settled. I started to feel like I could maybe pull it together in this city. Then the 1/8th was cashed and I was left with the greatest enemy to any new big city transplant:
My unending, anxious thoughts.
I wanted to get back my cannabis break time before I snapped. This was the time of medical marijuana. Make an appointment with a doctor working part-time for a dispensary, get your certificate or card, and head down to the dispensary. I went back and forth on it. My boyfriend wasn’t a big cannabis guy and I still wasn’t rocking too many friends, so I didn’t really have anyone who could describe the experience. So I did what I always do. I over-thought it. Armed with as much knowledge on the process as Google could recommend, I made my appointment and headed in.
Maybe unsurprisingly, I was really nervous. At the time, there was a rumor that getting your certificate could put you on a federal government list and we weren’t that far past from the documentaries showcasing cancer patients getting a federal shake down over medical marijuana. Plus, honestly, I was afraid of being embarrassed. I was ready to explain my plight of horrible menstrual issues (true) and insomnia (also true) and how cannabis had been my saving grace… but also scared the doctor would, I don’t know, stand up and tell me they KNEW I was full of it.
Boy was I wrong. I was checked in, hung out in the waiting room and, after checking my blood pressure, it was suggested I ingest cannabis as opposed to smoking. And that was it! I was off to the dispensary, certificate in hand (I never paid for the card), where I waited in the front room for twenty minutes because of the one-in-one-out rule. Regardless, I walked out of a store with cannabis. I had to stop myself from texting friends—I mean that’s just tacky. It was so convenient! But also… sterile? As I grew more accustomed to the process, I began to feel a little weird. I liked the availability and the assurance on the quality of product, but found myself turned off by the check-in process, harsh fluorescent lighting, and rules of dispensaries for medical marijuana. A pharmacy for cannabis wasn’t what we were fantasizing about while picking seeds from an overpriced sandwich baggie of weed all that time ago in college.
From Medical to Recreational: The Evolution of Purchasing Weed
Then came the Adult Use of Marijuana Act of 2016 and the dispensaries for medicinal marijuana began to transition to just plain old dispensaries. In those early days, your medical marijuana card (or bedraggled certificate if you didn’t pay extra for an actual card) would not only get you in the store, it gave you access to product with a higher THC level. Nice. I was cool again getting my special “M” stamp before waiting in line for my turn at the counter. Soon that was phased out and the taxes phased in. Everything comes with a price and in the case of legalized weed, it was a literal price. When I visited my hometown across the country, I regaled those around me of my experience with legal weed to the scoffs of my former dealer friend: “God, for those prices it hardly seems worth it”. I sniffed back that I prefer to pay for convenience but internally I wondered: was I ok with this?
There’s a growing debate around legalization and regulation where the independent growers are getting pushed out for bigger companies with backing taking their place. Were we killing something culturally or humanly important by going along with the current status quo? For convenience?
Looking at the state of cannabis procurement, the answer to that question is complicated. With legalization came the rise of companies like MedMen and Eaze. Companies who make finding and enjoying cannabis as easy as a Grubhub delivery. And with them came weed tourism. People from all over the country traveling to LA to jump on a weed tour bus where the blunts come in handfuls and the final destination is… MedMen. Slowly the dispensaries relaxed their rules. You still have to register but you only need a license. The interior design became more welcoming and less antiseptic. The people working could have been (and sometimes were) your friends from the scene. But also, dispensaries became more corporate. Matching shirts for employees or rewards programs. Partnerships with other companies. Billboards for cannabis varieties, not just the dispensaries. Then, finally, the rise of cannabis delivery. Ridiculous fees and taxes, but the option to have cannabis (all varieties) delivered to your home up to 10pm at night felt like a gift.
Yet the other evening, as I waited for my card to go through my delivery driver’s reader, I thought of the state of this convenience. What began as a plea to ease regulation on cannabis in light of its benefits and in consideration to those incarcerated over it is now completely corporate. The first cannabis cafe has opened in LA and I’ve still never been to Amsterdam. Is this… ok?
I don’t know. But I’m not going back to buying a 1/4 that’s half stem from a dude at Burger King. I have my dignity back and I’m willing to risk becoming a little dull for it. Though I am all in for cannabis farmers’ markets.