i miss weed

I miss bad weed

Does this make me old and out of touch? Dunno, how about I smoke a modern vape pen and fixate on that for the next few hours.

If you, like me, used to be a pothead, then quit, but still end up smoking on occasion, you might’ve experienced what a friend of mine likes to call “weed hubris.”

Hit your younger brother’s gravity bong in an effort to appear chill, and are suddenly very worried about the last time you went to the dentist? That’s what happens when you defy the weed gods. Took a puff of some random dude’s blunt at a music festival, and now you can’t tell whether you have to pee or not? My friend, you have flown too close to the sun. Decided to vape before a family function for old time’s sake, only to settle into a quiet yet acute panic at the prospect of describing your job in digital media to your aunt? Peak weed hubris.

Thinking I can still smoke pot and enjoy it like I used to has been a revealing feature of my mid-to-late-twenties. Nowadays, it seems, I prefer my altered states much less altered. Though weed obviously has different effects on different people, I have too much to worry about by simply pretending to be an adult to partake in substances that in some form or another elucidate my shortcomings or force me to confront my own mortality.

That’s why lately I pine for bad weed. The shwag. The shake. The plastic baggie full of crumbly and parched green-brown leaves, which, when smoked — on the top of an apple or inside a cheap pipe — already tasted like ashes, and made your lungs want to cry. Since high school, my estimation of bad weed has only risen, at least as an alternative for adults who only kind of want to get high. In an age where Whole Foods bud is fast becoming a reality, it is becoming the vinyl of recreational marijuana, a haphazard way to recapture the shoddy purity of a bygone era.

I smoked pot almost every day from junior year of high school to junior year of college, at the University of Wisconsin. It was fun. It was illicit, but not injuriously so (full disclosure: I’m white, and was fortunate enough to grow up in a place where smoking weed was treated more like cutting class than committing a crime). It made teenage conversations profound, food better, movies more interesting. I had a “cool mom,” who was “okay with me smoking pot” and “guilted my friends and I into watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show with her afterwards.” In general, weed served as a predictable antidote to run-of-the-mill suburban blahs.

A number of factors led me to (mostly) quit, but chief amongst them was the growing sense of dread I had about graduating, and the ways in which being high forced me to wade around in those feelings. Sitting on the couch eating Pizza Rolls and watching How I Met Your Mother reruns used to feel innocuous; now it just made me feel like a piece of shit. Smoking threw into focus everything I wasn’t doing — namely, not-eating Pizza Rolls — because I was smoking.

And, of course, the weed was getting stronger, too. According to Mic, every reliable trend analysis we have indicates weed has grown more potent over time, particularly in the wake of medical marijuana legislation. Whereas the pot of yore typically — although not always — had THC concentrations of 10 percent or less, the average retail strain in states where weed is legal, like Colorado, was up to 18.7 percent as of 2015. The strongest stuff is eclipsing 30 percent. (That’s to say nothing of the innovations in edibles, the unknowns of which can leave even the most experienced of stoners freaked the fuck out.)

Certainly, one aspect of bad weed that was good was that it was bad: it probably wouldn’t send you into an anxiety-fueled tailspin involving palliative episodes of Boy Meets World unless you really, really wanted it to. Many of my weed-humbled friends, in Chicago and now New York, have found comfort in modulated vapes and pens — especially those with a high ratio of CBD (the trendy non-psychoactive cannabinoid) to THC. To me, this stuff has the same twisted appeal as those scrubbed-clean “dive” bars, which will gladly serve you a $14 cold brew cocktail instead of laughing in your face for requesting anything more complicated than a whiskey-ginger.

Besides, less strong weed is not the same as bad weed, and there’s something irksome about these new high-tech tools, particularly at a time when more and more of what we see and hear and watch and listen to are being sold to us as “optimized.” Netflix ruthlessly tracks your every click and search and pause to determine what shows and movies appear on your homepage; as a BuzzFeed News report puts it, their “visual interface is all meant to make choosing what to stream so fast and frictionless that you don’t have to think about it.” Spotify’s algorithm uses your information to imitate your past listening habits. I don’t think I need to reiterate what Amazon, Facebook, and Google do.

Big Weed is not yet a Silicon Valley behemoth. But it increasingly reeks of the technocracy. On the production side, Cannabis Tech reports, “systems are already in place to utilize intelligent automation in cannabis cultivation,” including software engineered to provide optimal growing conditions and a weed-trimming robot. On the product side, there are companies like InDose, which is developing breathalyzer-like vape pens that inform the user of how many milligrams of THC they’re inhaling with each puff, and LucidMood, whose raison d’être is a discomfiting hybrid of Philip K. Dick and Jeff Spicoli. By tinkering with terpenes — the different aromatic organic compounds found in marijuana, which, combined with THC and CBD, can affect you in various ways — they can supposedly manufacture a line of pens to induce specific moods: Energy, Chill, Party, Bliss, Relax.

In practice, the mainstreaming of marijuana —its medicinal uses, its decriminalization, its legalization — is a good thing, particularly for people who might use it to help alleviate anxiety or nausea or headaches. Symbolically, it’s a bit disheartening to watch it become optimized-to-death like everything else. Part of the pleasure of shwag was its unpredictability, its imperfection, its aura of wonder: Was it going to be good? Was it going to be bad? Was it going to be oregano? (I was young and stupid.)

There was something chaste in that unknowing. The weed wasn’t engineered for predictable outcomes. Nobody spoke of it in the lofty language of wellness. What used to be a totem of the counterculture is becoming just another shiny and sterile product. We have plenty of those. I’m looking for the wrong stuff—the kind of dried-out weed that makes me feel like I’m smoking something, but only generates a light buzz.

Does this make me old and out of touch? Dunno, how about I smoke a modern vape pen and fixate on that for the next few hours.

I miss sharing weed

Where were you when puff, puff, pass became puff, puff … nah, I’m good?

For me, it was a Saturday, March 21, 2020 to be exact. In Seattle, Washington. I was at the last house party I might ever attend, posted on the back patio with a stranger who had an immaculate ponytail. I lit a stogie mcnogie of some homegrown Durban x Tangie, took a few hits, then passed it to the left, only to receive a, “Hmm . nah, I’m good.”

My world collapsed. The first decree of the Weed Smoker’s Constitution has just been amended, and we didn’t even vote on it. Shit just happened. Not only was I hurt by the rules of weed being changed, but I was also judging myself for not adjusting to them.

It’s not like the changes aren’t for good reason. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. As I write this, John Hopkins’ COVID-19 dashboard reports nearly 7 million cases in the US and more than 200,000 COVID-19-related deaths. So, it makes sense why people wouldn’t want to put their lips on some stranger’s spit vessel. We now live in a world where people wear hazmat suits to buy groceries, drive-thrus pass your food on a tray like cops feeding Hannibal Lecter, and coffee shop managers might actually slapbox you for not wearing a face mask. Everyone so badly wants to get back to whatever “normal” used to be — before now. Anytime you violate social distancing rules, it feels like you’re resetting the world’s countdown by years.

I miss sharing weed. And so do you — I see it in your eyes (plus the fact that you’re reading this article). The coronavirus has changed everything in the world, and just because weed is essential doesn’t mean we’re untouched. Cannabis cafés have gone out of business, those fancy THC-infused dinners in Los Angeles are on hold, and Oregon dispensaries — where you could stick your nose into the jars — have shifted to a wafting model.

You can’t even let off a public weed cough without people side-eyeing you like you’re patient zero.

It’s not corona it’s weed cough

Even finding new weed is different. When’s the last time someone passed you a jar that made you do two claps and Ric Flair? It’s been a minute since you coughed, “Damn, what’s that?!” huh? COVID-19 stole that from us. We can’t even touch jars, let alone pass along what’s inside of them. Not sharing weed takes away from that feeling of discovering a new Pokémon in the wild. Not to mention, it’s way cheaper to find new weed through smoking with other people than trying every random strain to figure out the few that you love. Real ones know.

In the era of social distancing, fewer face-to-face interactions means fewer opportunities to have a stoney conversation with someone new. It’s not that the art of conversation is dead. You can talk, and to strangers, in person, with a mask and distancing enforced. But with reports that aerosolized COVID-19 particles can remain in the air for up to three hours, the weed conversation game of smoking with a person while y’all chop it up about something weird is in a lockout. No one is standing next to you long or close enough to blow smoke in each other’s faces, and if they are, you’re both silently wondering if it makes y’all assholes. I mean, kinda.

The dating game is all messed up now too. Not only does the absence of social gatherings force us into the hell of dating apps, you can’t even get off the link-and-smoke anymore. Fam, I hate alcohol (and dating apps). I’ll drink it socially, but if I never had to meet up with a woman over $12 cocktails just to make small talk about work and asking each other “do you like travelling?”, I would be so okay. But I participate in these social norms because, deep down, I’m hoping that she’s radical enough to see this Gelato joint I brought as a better way of connection. That’s gone now — my whole bag is gone. Picture Michael Jordan without the left shoulder fadeaway: that’s Danté Jordan without the, “You wanna just smoke instead?”

“But what about online smoking sessions?” you might point out. Let me tell you something: Online smoke sessions are trash. I’m sorry, but they are. Think about your latest Zoom call with a big group. What was the experience? It’s eight to a dozen people having one conversation. Either no one’s talking, because we don’t have the social queues of knowing when to, or everyone’s talking, because we don’t have the social queues of knowing when not to. And the more people added to the sesh, the harder it is to communicate, ultimately turning your chill time into a virtual panic room. Still, with the heightened risks of spreading the virus, sometimes a bad option like a WIFI smoke sesh is a better option than putting others and yourself at risk, or not seshing at all.

I wish I could have an online smoke sesh or smth. I miss getting high with other people lol

So, where do I go from here? Like all people with a passion for weed before me, you learn to adapt.

The first time I tried to smoke with friends post-quarantine was a real eye-opener. It was a parking lot post-up where everyone brought Bluetooth speakers, camp chairs, and flow toys. We’d all gone four months without seeing each other, so everyone hugged it out upon greeting. That body-to-body love was needed in a medicinal way. As ice breakers, we exchanged sarcastic remarks about how extreme the world was acting, but when it came time to spark one, the left arm extension was still met with, “Nah, I’m good.” Instead, everyone smoked solo dolos in our own lil’ bubbles. It was a sign that jokes are jokes, but sharing weed is the new character test amongst stoners, and your choice to not adapt speaks volumes.

What are the ethics of sharing weed moving forward? No clue. That really depends on your values when it comes to public health and the culture of weed. In a global pandemic, where almost 1 million total humans have died in relation to a virus that you can spread from just breathing too far, is smoking weed with the homies ever really okay? Again, no clue. Probably not.

I’ll come clean in saying that I’ve been burning with the people closest to me. As the months of worldwide disease, protests, and wildfires have passed, I’ve started to establish my new normal amidst the chaos, and with that has come a few exceptions. It’s like answering the age old question, “If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you bring and why?” I’ve never had a what, only a who; I’m cool on surviving alone. Nowadays, my four to five friends that I know have been masked up, chilling at the crib, and doing hand sanitizer facials on Self-care Sunday, are the only people I see, let alone smoke with, so we feel alright about it. But long gone are the days where anyone close enough to comment on how good my weed smells could hit the blunt.

I miss the hell out of them.

Featured illustration by David Lozada/Weedmaps

Since COVID-19, weed smokers have given up on puff, puff, pass — but what is lost when we can’t share weed like we used to? ]]>