For over a decade, I’ve lived in New York City where weed has alway been a phone call away, where a delivery person arrives at the door wearing a suit, holding a briefcase full of plastic cube containers stickered with The Simpsons or SpongeBob or some other stoner loving cartoon.
Each cube would have a different strain printed on it, but it didn’t take a brain surgeon to see it was all the same overpriced, midgrade bud. But I never dared say a condescending word because I was grateful for whatever I could get my paws on.
Now, my collection consists of myriad chemovars, and my edibles and topicals drawer overfloweth. My indecisiveness is worsened by the ever present question of not “what” to pack a bowl with, but exactly “which” lovely bud will be next? Cue choirs of angels singing. It’s miraculous. Truly. Yet, this is not reality for many people across our weed-conflicted nation...unless, perhaps, you’re blessed with the “gift."
“A lot of people have a hard time finding cannabis. I, however, do not have a hard time finding it because I have a gift. Wherever I go, I “see” exactly who’s carrying it, and I know it’s that person. I’m blessed with the gift to smell it out,” says Lorraine, a raven haired artist from Queens.
However, her friends don’t possess this talent. Frustrated, they sit around a table, slugging back iced coffees and lamenting over how difficult it is for them to score. “Boston is a college town. Needless to say, the thought of funding some kid’s tuition just so I can puff keeps me from seeking it out,” says James, 42, an avid Red-Sox fan and Boston native.
“So what do you turn to?” I ask.
“I’m a total booze-hound when my dealer goes dry,” says Lindsay, a business exec who commutes to Manhattan daily from Jersey City. Her friend Jennifer exclaims, “Me too! Oh, and I know this bar owner [on the Lower East Side] who only smokes Scooby Snacks from the bodega because it’s always available and cheap.”
When the going gets tough, the tough grabs a bottle of Bordeaux, picks up a bag of French Roast, renews a prescription for Xanax or even worse, finds the toxic and sometimes deadly synthetic cannabis also known as Spice, K2 or Scooby Snacks. To clarify, synthetic cannabis is nothing like real cannabis. It’s plant matter sprayed with toxic chemicals that’s sold illegally in stores across the United States. Some people refer to this dreck as bath salts. For others, it’s the spice of life.
So, where can you go to find quality, legit herb without the sketchiness and fuss? Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and the District of Columbia.
Where may you run into problems? Everywhere else. Here are just a few stories.
Let these voices inspire us to keep advocating to end cannabis prohibition!
*All names have been changed*
Rumor has it, Idaho police wait at the border to make busts. They assume people are holding since prohibition is over in neighboring Oregon...and the cops are unsympathetic. In fact, an individual charged with possession of up to an ounce faces a year in jail and/or up to a $1000 fine. So how does one get high? “We plant a few seeds in the potato fields and see what happens,” says Samuel, who works in a machine shop. Usually, the plants are harvested early and never fully mature. Many refer to it as “potato weed”.
“Once our hook up left town, we couldn’t find anything for months, and since we have a child we are very careful with how we go about looking for it,” says Jeremy. He suffers from an autoimmune disease that clearly benefits from medical grade cannabis therapy. Tired of going without quality medicine, he and his family moved to California to enhance their quality of life.
“I lived in Tampa for five years, and had the hardest time finding pot, so I tried this stuff called Krunk Max and ended up in the hospital,” says Kareem, a 30 year old accountant now living on the West Coast. According to him, lots of people there smoke synthetic cannabis. Last summer, Florida authorities reported an increase in emergency calls related to Spice overdoses. They’ve found users slumped over in parks or lurching down the streets in a zombie like state.
Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
“Every now and again I’ll be able to find some really good kind bud around here, but I pretty much stick to drinks when I want to unwind,” says Matthew, a waiter at a local pub. Shenandoah Valley is another region of the United States where synthetic cannabis has caused quite a stir. Last summer, Spice caused more than 50 overdoses in 11 days here.
New York City, New York
“The difficulty, stigma and secrecy of having to hunt down and sneak around to obtain quality grade and particular strains that are not easily available in New York is absurd. There are millions of people who use cannabis for true ailments and pain, and the fact that I must hide in the shadows to get anything of quality (or anything for that matter), even in my own home so others do not smell and report it, is unfathomable,” says Sloane, an Upper West Side resident. Sloan suffers from migraines and has difficulty finding strains needed to mitigate symptoms. More often than not, she resorts to prescription medication, reluctantly.
Huntington, West Virginia
“There’s a direct correlation between prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction. If medicinal marijuana were legal here, I bet there wouldn’t be a heroin epidemic,” says Amy, a counselor who works at a Huntington substance abuse treatment center specializing in Harm Reduction.
“Many of my patients complain they can’t find marijuana easily. It doesn’t help that penalties are quite stiff if you’re caught with it in this state.” West Virginia has the worst heroin overdose rate in the nation, and Huntington is known as the overdose capital of West Virginia. Sadly, prescription drug companies are marketing painkillers aggressively in this region. As a result, West Virginia residents consume more prescription painkillers per capita than any other state.
Oklahoma's state law allows judges to give life sentences for those convicted of cannabis cultivation or the sale of a tiny amount. “Excessive pot penalties make you think twice before sparking up. I’ll come across it from time to time and partake, but it’s a once in a blue moon thing for me,” laments Benjamin, a recent college graduate.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
“When I can find it, it’s usually really shwaggy and seedy, and I’m so sketched out by the cops who actively go around seeking people out, I’ve decided not to put myself in danger,” claims Roger, a local musician. The social intolerance is low and the law is heavily enforced in South Dakota, leaving little options.
“I can find bud from time to time, but the laws here freak me out,” says Janine, a school teacher from Indianapolis. “You can vacation in Colorado and consume legal weed, but then when you return to Indiana, you can be charged and convicted of [operating while intoxicated] even if you aren’t impaired. It’s ridiculous!” If an officer pulls you over and finds a label from a legal cannabis container, that’s enough evidence to require a drug test. If you refuse, your license is suspended for a year. Many residents feel it’s not worth the risk.
Despite Arizona being one of the 24 legal medical marijuana states, access to the plant can be quite difficult. “I’m lucky if I can score a bag,” complains Ashley, a receptionist from Tuscon. Ashley also spoke of Spice, recounting a story about two half-dead dogs found in a nearby park, both poisoned from consuming synthetic cannabis.