Dispatches From The War On Drugs — Is That Marijuana We Smell? Or “Surrender”?

I took marijuana to an airport yesterday — out in the open. Here’s what happened…

I never imagined I would become a warrior in the War On Drugs. I definitely never imagined that cannabis would touch my life so profoundly that I’d take up its cause with a Kamakazi’s zeal.

For reference’s sake — I wasn’t into pot when I was in high school. The handful of times I tried it, it put me right to sleep. Same all the way through college. I preferred cocaine. Speed worked better with my hypomania. At least, I thought it did at the time. I preferred ecstasy. Even psybocilin the one time I tried it. And, of course, there was always always ALWAYS alcohol.

Then Life happened. Ups, downs and everything in between. By the time I reached my mid 50’s, I was depressed and getting more so. Sleep was getting hard to come by. I had no interest in taking Ambien — knowing how my mind worked, that pretty much guaranteed I’d snap to from a fugue state in some strange, public place, completely naked. Wasn’t gonna happen.

I’d been taking Simply Sleep knock off’s for years. Occasionally I would get some sleep from it. Mostly it just made me groggy the next morning and screwed with my short term memory. Living in California, (back before full legalization), I had access to medical marijuana. Being at the very end of my tether, I found a doctor nearby who prescribed.

It wasn’t illicit — but it felt illicit. That’s how powerful bullshit is. “What’s your issue?” “Insomnia,” I said. I began to explain but he held up his hand. Not necessary. He wrote the prescription on his computer, printed it and handed it to me. Short $69, I walked out the door.

Next stop — my local dispensary — located almost literally under a freeway overpass. The only thing it needed to be a full on crime scene was the yellow police tape. I filled out their extensive paperwork. Showed them my California picture ID and my RX. I was buzzed through to the “showroom”, a few old display cases with pipes, bongs, papers, the few edibles then on the market (Cheeba Chews mostly) and a dozen large jars filled with cannabis flower.

My first budtender (I didn’t know he was called that then) welcomed me like I was a “customer” or something. The whole experience — that first time especially was surreal (something about it remains surreal). “Insomnia,” I said.

“Skywalker,” said my Budtender. As he went for the Skywalker jar, my immediate thought was “cute name”. I had no idea — zilch — that Skywalker wasn’t just a “name”, it was a genuine cannabis strain — a known quantity with known effects if you smoked it. It wasn’t the product of a bunch of stoners stumbling upon a plant that made the dope they liked, it was a hybridized product of serious work by serious people. Skywalker was a kind of “brand”. In theory, Skywalker was as reproducible a product as a Big Mac.

My Budtender offered me the jar — so I could smell it. Yup. Smelled like dope. I bought two grams. Took them home, intensely curious about what the dried flower in the plastic vile would do to me that night. I’d already bought a small glass pipe and a lighter. I didn’t have a grinder. Didn’t know I needed one.

I was as green as the Skywalker in the vial in my hand. But, that night, I ground up some of the leaves between my fingertips, snuck outside and smoked it. It didn’t take long — a few minutes — before a feeling of calm came over me. My hypomanic mind slowed down. Then sleep beckoned. Usually, I had to go hunting for it. But, with Skywalker’s THC now in my brain, sleep came looking for me. As I slipped into bed beside my wife, the feeling of sleepiness became downright delicious.

All I remember after that is waking up the next morning, feeling RESTED for the first time in… forever. In time (subjects for other blog posts), I’d learn that cannabis wasn’t just for bedtime. I was buying from one jar at the dispensary. What was in all the others?

Turned out cannabis could be genuinely useful first thing in the morning, too. Turned out pretty much EVERYTHING I knew or thought about cannabis was absolutely wrong. And the more I corrected that problem — the more I learned about cannabis — why it was “illegalized” (check out my series Blunt Truths at Weedmaps News) — the more I learned about the differences between indicas, sativas and hybrids — the more I found that cannabis & me were, in myriad ways, soul mates.

I’d even say we’re “buds”.

Back to my airport story… A few days ago, I traveled from LA to visit family on the East Coast.

In California, cannabis is legal. Because I’m over 21, I can walk around with 28.5 grams of cannabis flower in my possession (I can also have 8 grams of marijuana concentrate — I can even possess six living cannabis plants at my private residence. In California, these are my constitutional rights.

I can possess the flower and concentrate at my house, on the street, in my car (so long as I’m not actually using it then and there, mind you) and — still Constitutionally legal — at the airport. Until I board the airplane — where the FAA and the Federal government have jurisdiction — the weed in my possession is 100% legal.

So — I’m at LAX the other day. I know my rights here in California. I intended to travel some of cannabis with me to the east for personal consumption. The place I was going — another state where cannabis is legal. I know for a fact, as I go through the TSA security line that the vials of cannabis flower in clear view in my carry on bags (I now grind my flower and put it into 5 or 10 dram vials that I label with the strain’s name & type — there will be no mistaking what’s in those vials). I also was traveling with clearly marked edibles. I did not repackage my THC gummy worms with store-bought ones (as one normally does).

Quick footnote — on the day cannabis went fully legal in Nevada, an interesting phenomenon happened. The dispensaries all ran out of edibles. This happened principally because Nevada made a deal with the devil (in this case the liquor distributors who, shocking, did not have their shit together on Day One like they promised to); all re-stocking of retail supply had to be handled by the liquor distributors. Dumb, dumb, dumb. BUT – the phenomenon part is this: most of the sales, it’s believed, were made to non-Nevadans — tourists — who were about to get onto airplanes with loads of THC — in their food.

The wide availability of THC in food that looks exactly like non-THC food changes the game with no going back. It’s unpolice-able. Now that semi-legalization has unleashed all that THC-inspired creativity, there aren’t too many formats THC won’t take going forward. I’m not saying I’ve broken the law and traveled with THC-laced food in the past, but, I might know one or two people who have.

Being a “Have a plan B in your pocket” kind of person, I prepared myself in case the TSA agent understood the law “differently”. I drew plan B from my pocket when my computer backpack got flagged and pulled aside for a hand inspection.

I stepped up to the counter — not anxious so much as wary (I already had lots of THC in me). The TSA agent saw — and moved right past the 5 vials clearly containing cannabis — to the (I thought it was empty) water bottle that was there, too. There was an ounce of water left inside it. I needed to either lose the water bottle or leave my bags with my young adult kids, exit the secure area, dump the water and go through security again — water bottle in hand.

I’ve had this water bottle for a while. It’s a good water bottle. It’s my tennis water bottle. I’m not ditching it because I overlooked a few swallows of water. I left my bags with my kids and did the whole security dance again. Then I carried on through the airport to my gate — water bottle & cannabis still in my possession.

I saw the future — where cannabis was normal and, to a degree already, normalized. It was awesome.

Better than awesome. It was sane.

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