Buying medical marijuana: A black man’s angst.
I thought weed was supposed to help you relax?
I didn’t anticipate the internal strife buying marijuana (legally) would bring as a black man.
I feel like an old man talking to “young folk” when I discuss what it meant to buy drugs before it was legal. I feel like I should be talking about drugs while swaying in a porch swing, chewing crushed ice, mumbling “you young kids got off easy!” before trailing off and staring sadly into the distance.
Before it was legal it was indeed a chase. A dangerous chase at that.
Before the days where you could read the yelp review about a dispensary. You: talked to friends, went to sketchy places, you got in the car with undesirables and let people into your living room that on second thought probably shouldn’t know where you live.
Your marijuana experience was dependent on word-of-mouth, your-homegirls-hook-up, and of course the level of honesty that your dealer would be willing to give.
In the exchange you were simply handed a baggie. Sometimes it smelled like heaven or mold- as green as a hippie, youth-pastor in NoCal or as brown as tumbleweed finding its way across the Southwestern landscape. Either way, you took it you rolled and smoked it. “And we were grateful damn it!” (Shakes fist and continues to bore anyone within an earshot of my porch swing.)
Those days are over now. Drugs are sold in stores, your marijuana is behind the same sad glass you find at Subway. It is weighed out in a paper cup on a scientific scale, placed in a paper bag and the receipt is stapled to it like you’re leaving a Crispy Creme. So what’s the problem now? Besides feeling like a huge nerd for getting a receipt when you buy drugs?
Why this article? It’s because so many men and women that look like me are in jail for this very product, for making people happy- and now that it’s legal; very few of the people that sell it look like me. I’ve been in many dispensaries and almost zero are owned by minorities. Zero.
We’re inundated by Forbes 500 articles about how “The Marijuana Business is Booming!!!!!” If I’m being honest there is beauty in the genuine pleasure derived from certain people about the “discovery” of something that been there since the beginning of time. (See Columbus, Christopher). But pat themselves on the back they do.
I also take no solace in the fact that “at LEAST it’s finally legal! That’s a step right?” No. Sorry guys, your midwestern senator didn’t make way for this to happen, I mean has anyone with a senators haircut done anything out of a moral compass to do right? I digress. My point is its not progress, it’s math.
You take the money you make from white people selling it/taxing it legally and subtract the amount of money made from locking brown people up for selling it and divide it by whatever bullshit you need to sell “your” base. Republicans: “we can tax it!”.
Dems: “no more 10 year sentences for a dime bag!”
Oh how the people applaud themselves!
The dirty little secret is that the weed business was always “booming”, just not for the right people. I mean, on paper it’s a great deal for me- just not the people that look like me. Marijuana has been around for a long time, it sells itself. Your job was done before you went down to City Hall to apply for your business license. Let’s be honest your only real job in the weed business is to think of a clever double entandre that involves a weed based pun to hang on your signage. “Baked Cakers!” How charming!!! Do these business owners ever wonder why they don’t need much of a marketing budget, why new customers are just walking through their doors faithfully even though they’ve done little to drum up new business? I think I know why.
Although I do not begrudge you for being at the right place at the right time, I refuse and will not allow myself to completely give in to the “isn’t this awesome!?” part of legal marijuana. Why haven’t the shops that bring in millions of dollars hired attorneys to fight for legislation to free the people that started this business? Their “forefathers” if you will.
Placing a neon green marijuana leaf in your shop window doesn’t make you a weed dealer, driving for 2 1/2 miles with a cop 4 inches from your bumper and 5 pounds of that sticky-icky in the trunk does. That’s where you start earning your money y’all.
There are 515 medical marijuana dispensaries in my current state Colorado and 99 in Arizona, if each of these dispensaries picked 10 nonviolent drug dealers in jail for marijuana to advocate for, and put back onto the street that would be 6140 men and women reunited with their families and given a second chance at this weird-ass journey we call life.
Think about how silly it would be if there were still people in jail because they were bootlegging Absolute vodka or Jamison whiskey. Would you be able to belly-up to the bar and order a Mojito if you knew you Uncle Chis was still in jail for making them? In my humble opinion he should be. Mojito’s suck; they’re all sugar and will give you a hang over that could stop one of the monsters from Pacific Rim- but that’s another article.
This is our prohibition.
We are set down a path to rid ourselves of antiquated marijuana laws. It’s our responsibility to remember the other side of that coin. Let’s not forget the people that kept: your mama, your grandfather, your uncles’, your aunts’, your teachers, your judges- high. Maybe it’s the dreamer in me but maybe we can start to see some of these incarcerated brown people behind the counter instead of behind bars. Share the wealth! It’s time to give back. I’m sure you’re reading this in between your weed/yoga class so I’ll leave you with this: blaze up and do what’s right.
Al Jackson Is a comedian and national television host