Dear Weed; How are you? It’s me, Newfoundland: A Eulogy of Illegal Weed.
Since the Liberals swept the country in an act of strict defiance against Conservative Canada, the media has been pushing stories of the coming legalization of marijuana. While I do not believe that many conscientious voters would vote on pot alone, there is a reason the media is saturated with speculation regarding the topic, and it isn’t because they are lazy. The public wants to know. People desperately want to discuss this issue.
Legalized weed carries weight in this country, especially when considering the fact that many Canadians have already lived through prohibition, decriminalization, re-criminalization, and now the ever approaching reality of full fledged legalization. As any good Newofundlander does, I turned to the call-in shows to find out what people had to say regarding legal dope. On VOCM’s Open Line following the federal election, Paddy Daly fielded call after call regarding Trudeau’s policy on grass. While this was perhaps expected at first, it became the topic of many more calls spanning the rest of the week. Paddy, a host known for having a seemingly supernatural gift for yapping, actually began to sound bored with the topic, despite holding some pretty strong opinions about it.
Who could blame him? Who could blame any reporter for not giving a shit? I’ve been smoking weed daily for ten years, and while the prospect of legalization is enticing in many ways, in many other ways I’d rather save the speculation, save all this debate for whenever our handsome new leader actually gets around to doing something about it.
Until then life will go on just the same as it always has. So in my mind, we should ask whether wasting words and air time on an issue which won’t become law for quite some time is something to support.
I am not writing to play politics or even offer my opinion on legalization, a decade on the pipe has left me pretty apathetic with the whole concept. I am writing to pre-emptively eulogize illegal weed. I do so because if this country goes green and it sticks, there will come a time when we tell our grandchildren about prohibition. Perhaps we will romanticize weed dealers as we do the rum runners of the alcohol prohibition era; revering them as heroes for standing up against puritanism and unjust law. Maybe there will be an HBO series about it.
The first time I ever bought weed, I sealed the deal over MSN. I was 14, and the year was 2005. You didn’t worry about the NSA back then, but a much more terrifying acronym which represented heavy surveillance, PAW (parents are watching). In true Newfoundland fashion the dope came from a relative of mine who was a bit older and cooler. For fifteen dollars I received a pre-rolled joint and a little bit of scrap that I could put in a pipe later. I immediately went to the closest walking trail and smoked the whole joint alone. I felt nothing, which is a common occurrence for newcomers. There are those who may have to smoke weed dozens of times to feel the effects in more extreme cases. I went to my friend’s house where we played Halo and ate Doritos.
It didn’t take long for the effects of marijuana to become noticeable, and I’m not just talking about getting high. Once word began to spread to my peers that I was using illegal drugs, my popularity sky-rocketed. I had something to talk to skeets about, I had something to read about, I had something to fucking do. It was the first time I had ever considered how the government imposes its will on Canadians through the rule of law.
Jump forward to 2009: the police make a series of massive busts, throwing the market into despair. Rumours floated around that whatever weed was left on the island was being held on to for fear of being caught. Everyone I spoke to had an uncle or a friend who ‘had lots of weed,’ they just weren’t moving it. I guess when you are one of many there are less chances of getting caught; however, when your peers and superiors are being arrested on a daily basis, the fear of the law becomes a tightening noose of reality around any dealer’s neck.
Throughout the period of the drought, there was little to no weed, and there was a bit of mediocre hash (or ‘Dad Hash’), if you knew the right people. During the drought there was also a spike in popularity of a drug known simply as ‘bombs.’ Bombs (or phonetically, bamz) were essentially a mixed bag of drugs pressed into a colourful pill, and were designed to replicate Ecstasy or MDMA. I remember that in my junior high, well before the drought, bombs were the drug of choice for many young people. There were $1.00 bombs that were apparently comprised of 90% caffeine and 10% MDMA, there were bombs that were said to be ‘acid dipped,’ meaning that there was a coating of LSD on the pill. Forget the fact that some kid may have been selling caffeine pills and claiming they had a trace of MDMA; and while you’re at it, forget the fact that LSD is so unstable that it is doubtful the drug could actually coat a pill and still be effective. Ignoring of all this, and keeping in mind that many dealers lied about what was in their bombs, there is no doubt that they got kids high as fuck.
I never tried them because I was too chicken shit, plus I’d heard rumours: that dealers would put cat urine and bird faeces in the pill to throw off K9 units; that using them would make your heart bleed; that they would fuck with one’s spinal fluid, leaving one bed ridden. Looking back now with a critical mind, I would say the scariest thing about bombs is that nothing about them seems true from the perspective of an adult. I mean, how did the dealers actually get cat piss in the pills, was there a case study done on the effects of bombs on one’s heart or spine? Highly fucking doubtful. If I were to make an educated guess now, I would say that bombs were most often a combination of amphetamines and a trace of MDMA. It wasn’t until recently that the dealers around town started touting a brown powder around as pure MDMA, but I’ll save that nugget for another time.
You’re probably wondering how I’ve gone so far off track from eulogizing illegal weed, you may be questioning what fake MDMA has to do with illegal weed. It has a lot to do with it, so hang on.
With the drought in full swing during the summer of 2009, thousands of tokers across the island needed something different. Some drank the time away, however a ‘wake and sip’ is a lot more debilitating than a ‘wake and bake.’ Others turned to cocaine and bombs to quell their need for a weed feed, and there was an over-abundance of cocaine and bombs.
At that time they even had these cute little bombs shaped like President Barack Obama’s head. The pills were pink, and Obama’s warm smile was embossed meticulously onto the surface each pill, his ears stuck out ever so slightly around the edges as to complete the illusion that you were crushing up and snorting the shrunken down head of the first black POTUS. The ubiquity of bombs increased over the course of the summer, getting many teenagers more comfortable with the idea of using hard drugs. This is to say that illegal weed isn’t the nostalgic trip I might have made it out to be, and its status as an illegal substance was more of a gateway into hard drugs than weed alone could have ever been.
Slowly, a moderate amount of pot began trickling back into the hands of small time dealers, meaning that it was no longer completely impossible to find as a teenager with few contacts. Weed’s return was met with enthusiasm, I remember it well: sitting in a garage in the suburbs and catching word that a dealer had picked up a moderate amount to sell — it may as well have been Christmas morning. But things did not go back the the way they had been just a few months before. This weed was hard to get, and more potent than anything that was around before it. Because of the added heat and improved quality, new weed came at a premium cost. Gone were the days of $10.00 grams, or $1.00 CAD = 0.1 gram(s) of weed. Shortly after the drought one might find themselves paying up to $20.00 for a gram, though $15.00 per gram was the most typical price.
This amazing new weed didn’t just appear out of thin air. Living on an island requires that the weed be shipped here, by boat, plane, or driven in a car which would have had to make it on the ferry. At the time it seemed like the majority of the weed was being purchased through a web-service called Bud Buddy. Nobody really had any clue how the weed could be shipped in the mail straight to someone’s door without the police getting involved, but it didn’t matter. Not only was there once again a steady supply of chronic, but there were different kinds which was widely unheard of prior to the drought: diesel, jack, white rhino, AK-47, and all manner of kush became the new lingo when looking to pick up.
While me and all my pals were over the moon that we could smoke again, we often found this new weed was too strong. Besides, who wanted to spend fifteen dollars for what would only amount to two joints? In my mind, no matter how good the weed was, quantity was as important as quality. Obviously there were people around who felt the same way, because reg weed (short for regular weed) could sometimes be found at the $10.00/gram price range. Though as my father would always say, if something seems too good to be true, that’s because it is
The fishy ten dollar weed seemed incredible at first. Despite the fact that it was more brown than green, when one put it in a buster it would produce an ample amount of crystal (also known as kief, dry sift or pollen); more crystal than I had ever seen. When rolled into a joint the ash became tough like plastic. In fact, if you held the joint out of the window of a car the ash would not blow off, even if you were blazing trails on the highway at 120 km/h. Eventually it was discovered that what we had mistaken for kief was in fact silica gel that was ground up and sprinkled atop the weed as to make it weigh more. This meant that dealers could sell less weed and take home more profit, recklessly ignoring the severe dangers associated with the inhalation of silica powder.
Silichron, as we began to refer to it as, became a staple in the post drought weed-economy. It was the first time I had ever gotten weed that was laced with another substance. Growing up my parents would warn me that drug dealers were lacing weed with meth, crack and LSD to get impressionable youngsters hooked on a substance they were unwittingly smoking. It doesn’t take a lot of research to find out that crack and meth both need to be vaporized through specialized pipes in order to get the desired effects, meaning that putting some in a joint would be mostly ineffective, and that LSD (as previously noted) is so fickle that things such as light or air could be enough to destroy the substance, let alone fire. Besides, dealers didn’t need to get kids hooked on drugs in order to move weed, we were already buying it daily. It was never really about slipping unknown drugs into a high schooler’s pot; if one could simply weigh the dope down, one could increase their profit margin drastically. With the drought so fresh in our minds, and $15 dollars for a couple joints not being economically viable with a summer job, we smoked the silichron anyway. It eventually fizzled out, or at least the people I bought from stopped getting it, which was a positive, though it didn’t mark the end of adulterated grass.
Silica was easily the most dangerous thing I’ve ever had found in my dope, but it wasn’t the only way to add pounds to ounces. I recall very vividly sitting in my friend’s room and rolling up a couple of seemingly normal joints. Before we began our session, we each fulfilled our papistic duty and baptized every joint. For those of you who do not smoke pot, baptizing is done by taking the unlit joint and placing it in your mouth, moistening the paper so that it does not burn up too fast or unevenly. Normally there isn’t a taste associated with this action, a slight hint of weed might bleed through the paper. But these joints were different. They were salty. We investigated further by licking the raw, unrolled buds that remained on the table. Whoever we had bought the dope from had completely covered the weed with salt. Perhaps the weed was placed in salt water before it was cured and dried so that the grains would go unnoticed, or maybe they just poured a box of salt on it. Whatever the case was, our sodium intake went through the roof during this time.
Another time when we put the bud in the grinder, one of the pegs inside snapped off. Upon closer inspection we noticed that a small weight, normally found at the end of a fishing line, had been expertly crammed into the bud, once again to add weight and increase profit. Nobody would question it though, as the drought had lowered smokers’ inhibitions and replaced the pupils of most dealers with cartoon dollar signs.
As I walk through the Valley of the Stoned
Though Prime Minister Trudeau recently initialized the steps needed to make weed legal, it could be quite some time before it is finalized and written into law. Illegal marijuana is not dead yet, but we are certainly witnessing the dying gasps of total prohibition. I’m certain that organized crime will take a hit, but I believe that a portion of smokers will eventually get fed up with the sales tax put on their dope. In the same way that there are contraband cigarettes and alcohol, weed will always have its place in the black market, though if only to exist as a ghost of its former self.
I won’t necessarily miss looking over my shoulder whenever the police drive by, or finding surprises in my stash like silica dust, fishing weights, or salt. I sure as fuck won’t miss knowing that my money is going towards gangs who use it to fund their enterprises, or that otherwise innocent people are being disproportionately jailed for doing what a staggering percentage of Canadians do every day.
What I will miss are the idiosyncrasies that added a sense of danger to a fairly safe substance like pot. Getting to feel the exhilarating rush of a criminal without ever having to fully identify as one. Waiting hours for a dealer to call you back is undoubtedly annoying, as was waiting at the park all day for somebody to show up and rip you off; but it was part of the culture. It is part of the culture, at least for the time being. So my advice is to hug your dealer, thank them for their service, then close your blinds, spin a record, and wait for the day to come when we can imbibe without fear of persecution, prosecution or attenuation.