It started with an e-mail. "Hey David, I'm a marijuana defense attorney, and as a lawyer with lots of grower clients, well, you get the idea. I'm happy to match tolerances anytime. Gimme a shout. Also pretty sure drug war coming back. Busts happening again. Douglas."
A Google search produced a substantial biography: Douglas Hiatt is a criminal defense attorney who has spent the majority of his career as a public defender (first with Seattle's Northwest Defender Association and then with the Skagit County Public Defender's Office). His twin passions are social justice and marijuana law, both of which were ignited by the same case, in which a Seattle AIDS patient in the mid-1990s was jailed for medical marijuana. Since then, Hiatt has focused on indigent subjects of federal weed prosecutions and has spent years wrangling intricate marijuana defense cases, often pro bono.
"The continuing struggle for the rights of medical marijuana patients has taken over my traditional criminal law practice," writes Hiatt on his website. "I now believe that this issue of personal freedom and medical treatment is one of the most important liberty issues facing us as a country today."
During our pre-meet-up phone chat, I learn that Hiatt is also celebrated for his hand-rolled joints, and before I arrive at his downtown condo, I pick up a couple grams of high-grade stuff (Lemon OG, with a THC level of 22.56 percent). As soon as I land at the home Hiatt shares with his wife and a million books, I'm swept up in Hiatt's words, listening as he talks about Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow, quotes and praises Public Enemy's Chuck D, and shows me the trailer for the Viceland show Weediquette (in which he makes an appearance)—all within the first five minutes.
I produce my weed, and Hiatt's conversation changes direction while still maintaining its intensity. "This is worthless," he says, eyeballing it. "This is what I call garbage weed. It's trimmed by a machine, so there's almost no crystal aspect whatsoever." He pauses to break off a chunk and pop it in his mouth. "I don't taste any pesticides, so at least it's clean. But this is garbage weed."
He retaliates by producing his own stash—a hyper-powered strain called Jack's Girl with buds as big as a can of Red Bull (which Hiatt gets from a grower friend)—and orders me to smell (it's delicious). Then he zips into the kitchen for a flashlight in order to properly illuminate the crystallization and careful hand trimming. "This is some of the most powerful weed available," he tells me while rolling up a joint the size of a fat crayon.
With MSNBC playing softly in the background, Hiatt and I smoke the joint. It's dense and takes a while, but Hiatt keeps the air filled with words, holding forth with impassioned exasperation on everything from the acute stupidity of our legal system to America's seemingly intractable racism to the shittiness of Washington State's decriminalization of weed, which he believes created more problems for medical marijuana users than it solved.
For example: The federal raids (complete with seizure of assets) of medical marijuana growers in Eastern Washington, and the maddening fact that there are people in a state with legal medical marijuana being busted by federal agents who say there's no such thing as medical marijuana.
"Lives are being ruined!" Hiatt bellows, citing the arbitrary cruelty of the prosecutions and their disproportionately nonwhite victims.
Meanwhile, our many puffs off the Jack's Girl joint hit and stick. Hiatt had warned of the strain's overwhelming effects, with several of his smoking buddies "going white" and requiring brief naps after imbibing. But I'm just wonderfully baked. Most weed takes me somewhere I know and love and can count on. Jack's Girl takes me somewhere new and surprising, like I'm back in junior high and smoking weed for the first time, or it's 2015 and I'm doing my first dab hits at a questionably legal Seattle weed dispensary.
Hiatt could've kept talking—and I could've kept listening and occasionally interjecting—all night, but eventually my two-hour alarm goes off and I commence my good-bye. Hiatt sends me packing with a generous stash of Jack's Girl and praise for my handling of his superpowered weed.
"I believe, based on personal experience, that you can hang with anyone. Period," Hiatt texts after I leave. "I can try to find some hero-juana [a strain so strong, it's allegedly comparable to heroin] and we can retest!"
Stay tuned, dear readers.
Wanna get high with me and talk? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.