My name is Sara and I smoke pot.
Ahh. I feel so much better.
And if Initiative 502 passes next month, there’s going to be a lot more people coming out of their smoky closets.
Our state looks to be on the verge of legalizing pot for recreational use, so it’s about time we start to talk about it openly and work out whatever anxiety we have around this wacky weed.
There’s a lot we can learn from places in the world where marijuana looks different than the lazy-teenager-sinking-into-a-couch image it has in the U.S.
Names have been changed to protect sources from the social stigma and even more serious repercussions.
So be forewarned reader, this is not your grandmother’s travel guide. (…but it might be for your really cool aunt who you know laces her cigs with pot.)
The Puri Paralysis
Our first story comes from a close colleague of mine who will remain unnamed. But suffice it to say she works for the same publication. I’ll let you figure that one out. For now we’ll call her PotParalyzed.
On a reporting trip to India in 2006, she and her co-workers found themselves in a beautiful town on the Bay of Bengal called Puri.
She’d heard stories from this pot-stination where smoking is legalized for religious practices related to a local Hindu temple honoring the god Jagannath.
“We could not have known how exuberantly legal it was,” PotParalyzed says.
She asked a hotel worker where one might purchase the marijuana.
She was instructed to go back to her hotel room and within five minutes the man returned with a smorgasbord of greenery.
“It was more than I have ever seen in my life,” she says. “I thought for sure he was going to charge us hundreds of dollars for all of it.”
The grand total? Ten U.S. dollars.
PotParalyzed and her team hit the beaches and lit up, passing out their excess pot like candy canes at Christmas.
“We went out walking and there was the Indian Ocean, kids running all around, and temples rising up behind us. I thought to myself, ‘This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.’”
That’s when she stumbled on a part of the beach where men wash themselves at night and is used as a public toilet area. She knew immediately she was in the wrong part of town.
From here, the story becomes even more bizarre.
“We were trying to get back to the beautiful part when a big pack of wild dogs started chasing us.”
“It turned into a nightmarish experience, but of course, we were laughing hysterically the whole time.”
From that point on, she experienced what the locals call, “The Puri Paralysis.” Its effects are potent on visitors who arrive, smoke up and forget that they were ever supposed to leave.
The Puri Paralysis turned a 3-day trip into a week-long adventure of smoking with Sadhus and wandering among intricate temples in the heart of India’s marijuana sanctuary.
Not all pot smokers are created equal. While some are looking for spiritual excursions, others are just trying really hard to be cool.
Another source, who we’ll call the TechToker, began her pot travels in Switzerland as an intern for Google.
“At the end of the week, our bosses usually bought us beer and wine,” she said, adding that these work hangouts often included the rolling of hash.
But materials are hard to come by in Switzerland, where cannabis offenses are fined.
“We went to the most dangerous street in Zurich, which isn’t saying much,” TechToker said. “And we just asked everyone, ‘Do you have pot?’ ‘Do you have pot?’ ‘Do you have pot?’”
It took several failed attempts including one sketchy man on a bike who tried to sell her a bag of what looked and smelled like dog poop. But finally they were successful.
Back at Google, she said it was pretty entertaining smoking with the nerds in her office.
“Because they were all software engineers, they had no clue how to roll a joint,” TechToker said. “I usually rolled for them and they were all like, ‘Oh my god, we’re smoking hash!’”
She added that in general the laws are pretty relaxed around marijuana and that the police cared more about fighting a serious heroin problem.
A West Bank Story
It was in the most unlikely of places, a small Christian town in the West bank, that our next toker, HashHabibi, communed with a league of expats and activists.
HashHabibi was spending the summer after graduation toiling away on a self-sustaining permaculture farm run by British ecologists, who also happened to be the world’s biggest hippies.
“We did a lot of really hard work like earth building and planting trees. At the end of the day we’d hang out, drink beer and the pot would come out,” HashHabibi said. “It was an anarchist’s dream.”
In fact, it became so well known that travelers from all over the West Bank would journey to the hippie farm in Beit Sahour looking to party. The price of admission was always to bring your own pot.
“The locals definitely thought there were just crazy orgies going on all the time,” HashHabibi said. “There was this precarious balance between keeping the party culture in check. I mean, HELLO, we are in the middle of this really conservative Christian town!”
Once the farm even received a complaint from a neighbor who saw a couple having sex on the roof.
As you might imagine, marijuana was also somewhat difficult to come by in the West Bank.
“One of the sources was this guy who called himself the ‘The Master of Bethlehem,” HashHabibi said. “The Master was a total skeeze who liked to hangout with foreign ladies, which always included pot.”
HashHabibi said pot smoking wasn’t just contained to the farm. When visiting a family’s home, one father passed around a joint like some American families might pass around a tray of appetizers.
“It’s just something you would offer guests,” she said.
The Brogue of Marijuana
Which brings us to yours truly.
Unlike my other sources, I’m ready to step out of the closet, confess my love of weed, and give my personal endorsement to legalization.
Here’s my story:
I did what many young Americans with an Ellis Island story do, which is to study abroad in Ireland and get a sense of my “family roots.”
To my grandmother’s chagrin, I can’t say that I ended up doing much tracing of my family tree while I was there.
What I did get was a proper education that included how to correctly pour a Guinness, lead an entirely packed pub in a hometown song, and yes, how to smoke marijuana.
I remember the uneasy feeling when I saw the first joint being rolled.
We were standing on a roof balcony in downtown Dublin. There was a strong fall chill as the sun hung over the horizon on the River Liffey. It felt like I was in the middle of a modern day James Joyce novel.
I was still pretty new to pot at the time and these were some of the coolest, artiest people that have ever lived. I had fallen into this scene of painters, musicians, photographers and the proverbial loafers.
I was in awe.
They took hits in between heated debates about Ireland’s economy, the shite state of public education and (in 2008) how much they despised President Bush. To the latter, I was often the one turned to as the unqualified expert of American politics.
“So who’s your vote for?” my supervisor asked as he passed me the joint.
“It’s a no brainer,” I said as I took a deep hit and held it in for dramatic effect, “Obama, of course.”
That’s when I felt the tingles rising up my esophagus followed by a cacophony of smoke and coughing. Laughing, they offered me a glass of wine, which immediately shot back up through my nose.
But my newbie sins were quickly forgiven and I was embraced as the young American with the cool, John Wayne-esque accent (Not at all accurate).
We hit the pubs and the night was a fantastical haze of cobblestone streets, thick brogue and the most sorrowful music that compels you to hug and sway with the stranger next to you.
It was the holy Irish grail that every tourist comes looking for in Dublin, but few ever find.
On the ballot in the Evergreen State
Regardless of what those anti-drug commercials tell you, us “stoners” aren’t all those unmotivated, no goals in life, living in our mom’s basement types.
The people interviewed in the article are some of the most talented, successful, creative and motivated folks I know.
But with marijuana still illegal and their professional reputations on the line, none of them wanted to go on the record for the story.
“There’s a strong movement of having our attitude toward pot change in this country,” PotParalyzed told me. She feels there’s a weird sense of shame and punishment around something that so many people do.
HashHabibi added, “There’s this irrational fear that pot will become this cancer that will pervade all of society. Legalization is such an obvious answer that could benefit the state.”
For TechToker, it’s about starting a dialogue, “It’s hard because it’s been taboo for so long. And just like drinking and having sex, parents should just be talking to their kids about it.”
What is most preposterous about this part our culture is that someone can go drinking, get wasted, punch someone in the face, have their stomach pumped, go into the work the next morning with a cheery disposition masking their hangover and still be in the clear.
But if someone smokes up in the privacy of their own home, eats a dozen tacos from Rancho Bravo and watches Nova Science Now and falls asleep at 9 pm, they could be fired the next day on a random drug test.
So when you’re filling out your ballot in this election, I’ll hope you’ll join me and the other legion of closet tokers around Evergreen State in giving a thumbs up to 1-502.
This post was produced with support from CityClub. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CityClub.