The first time I blazed up was a fun day that I’ll never forget. It in true New Jersey fashion, one party brings the weed, the other brings a Dutchmaster and the change from paying for it with a $20. We rolled more cannabis than I would probably smoke over the next year into a super fat blunt and got ludicrously high. Whoever said you don’t get high your first time was lying. We cackled and cavorted and ate pizza and talked about dumb stuff, the best pressure valve we could deploy in our strict and uptight suburban town, and we were 13-years-old.
Now, at 30, I have been partaking in cannabis on and off for that entire length of time. There were six years of total abstinence, a few years of Saturday-only smoking, and even some binges, but now I consider cannabis a normal part of my life despite the draconian marijuana laws that remain for East Coasters, such as myself.
Despite having many medically sound reasons to use cannabis, I’ve never once bought cannabis legally, and saying so plainly is the truth that provides context to reality, as only severe illness is eligible in the New York State medical cannabis program.
One fine morning I woke up in Seattle, where it’s not only legal to purchase cannabis in many forms, but buying legal marijuana is completely run-of-the-mill for many Seattleites. Though being basically no big deal to most imbibers, just walking inside the clean, well stocked and attractive aisles at Uncle Ike’s on Capitol Hill was mind-altering.
The first thing a cannabis lover in exile notices about a pot shop is the collective smell of the dozens of strains and all of their terpenous glory mingling together into a potent haze of scent. You can’t smell it when you’re standing on the corner, but the second you open the door is wraps you in a loving, safe, green cloud, and is probably why no one is carrying even a whiff of bad attitude inside.
Not only impressed by sheer selection, I found the whole legal commerce part most overwhelming, but in a good way. I felt cared for in a genuine customer service way by the wonderful woman behind the counter. She knew her strains, knew the threads of related strains for different effects but similar taste profile, and was patient, kind, and budget conscious. It was like being in Sephora and having someone not only know the products well, but the ingredients, differences in prices and brands, and all without looking up a thing and being pleasant as hell.
Aside from a brilliant service experience, the weed itself was so much better than New York’s ridiculousness that it was worth a chuckle, or maybe a tear. Getting the best requires money, time, and privilege in New York, where as in Washington it’s just a matter of popping in a shop, no different than a bottle of wine, which consequently is also a limited purchase in New York State.
Being that I’ve imbibed in cannabis for almost half of my life, I still can’t wrap my brain around the difference in quality, marketing, packaging, selection, convenience, and basically any and all ways it could be simpler and more a part of everyday life in Washington. The only major barrier is that it’s not possible to smoke it in public legally, which puts a strange twist on things.
It’s no wonder so many people come to legal states to be weed tourists, or simply leave prohibition states altogether. Cannabis prohibition is no longer just looking dumb and dated but sinister and freedom hating. Buying weed legally for the first time was a blessing and a promise of what I hope the future holds for not just the East Coast or all of America, but the whole world.
Photos by Danielle Guercio