I have always been terrible at rolling joints.

There's something about the combination of balance, coordination, and multi­tasking that puts joint-rolling somewhere between juggling and the ability to play "Malagueña" on guitar on the list of skills I know I will never develop. Maybe it's because—as with the aforementioned proficiencies—I simply haven't put the hours in. Or maybe it's because on my best, soberest day, I have the manual dexterity of a teddy bear.

Throw in the bonus disorientation of being stoned, and my joint-rolling attempts look like a battlefield after the saddest skirmish: rolling papers crumpled and rent from multiple failed tries, shake scattered everywhere, and there, in the position of honor, a weird, misshapen slug with wounds in its sides that won't draw and crumbles like a sand castle if you even look at it.

And so it was with a sense of great joy that I welcomed the era of legal marijuana in Washington State, despite the fact that I now get high only slightly more often than I change the oil in my car. (Or rather, get the oil changed. That's another thing I do VERY poorly.) For all the well-intentioned and perfectly true jibber-jabber about civil liberties, social justice, and medicinal benefits that attended the public debate on the subject, I voted in favor of legalization for one simple reason: Because, with all due deference to Neil Young, I never wanted to have to roll another number.

I used to buy weed from a woman in Greenwood. She was sort of a Fagin-lite character, with a penchant for collecting stray teenagers—only instead of putting them to work as pickpockets, she would just let them crash at her house, hang around her living room all day, smoke her pot, and make her feel useful or loved or something. Her motives were opaque. Then again, I also never asked, because I didn't actually care.

As was often the case in the days when you still had to have a "dealer," even if all you were was a basic stoner, buying pot involved the charade of friendship—like, suuuure, I took two buses and walked three-quarters of a mile so we could catch up, and, oh yeah, could I maybe get an eighth before I head back?

Anyway, one autumn day I was over there with this gaggle of runaways and their benefactor, trying to be sly about stealing glances at my watch, when the conversation turned to the art joint-rolling. I actually remember how it came up. One of the kids—a handsome, long-haired gentleman with no shirt on and a strong My Own Private Idaho vibe—was bragging about a recent innovation in his getting-high-while-driving game: rolling joints in rice paper.

"That way," he boasted, "if I get pulled over, I can just eat the roach!"

A lengthy head-nodding reflection ensued before someone thought to say, "Couldn't you just eat it anyway?"

Another long, pensive pause followed.

"True," said the shirtless kid. "But I'll digest it faster this way."

This insight was met with general admiration. Before long, though, someone else in this rogues' gallery objected to the whole premise, insisting that joints were fundamentally wasteful. He deplored the way a joint kept burning even when no one was smoking it, and further, the unpleasant fact that no matter how handy you were with a roach clip, tweezers, or a Leatherman, you were basically guaranteed to end up with some unsmoked portion of the precious herb in an ashtray or under your shoe. Or possibly, as we had all just learned, in your digestive tract.

This argument was not new to me. I came late to smoking pot, not until deep into my senior year of high school, when, during an idyllic, cherry-blossom-scented Frisbee toss of a Sunday afternoon at the National Mall in DC, I met some marines who had just come back from Operation Desert Storm, or said they had. They passed me their joint next to the reflecting pool. I accepted it so they wouldn't think I was scared, which I was. I rode the Metro back to school astonished that there was something in the world capable of making "The Headmaster Ritual" sound even better on my headphones. Semper fi.

Though I was a relatively late bloomer, I soon became an eager devotee, seeking the company of more experienced stoners (and sources) who could Virgil me through the underworld of pot argot, pot preferences, and pot tools. I saw one-hitters, little glass pipes, even a six-foot-tall bong. The dealer in my college dorm—who also played bass in a reggae/funk band called One Fish, Two Fish—had a perfect yellow circle on the palm of his hand from trapping smoke between hits off this monster bong. I asked him why he didn't just smoke joints. His ponytail wagged when he shook his head in disapproval. "That's a w-o-w, dude."

I nodded, as though I knew what that meant, hoping the meaning would emerge in whatever he said next. It didn't, so I had to ask.

"Wait, what? What's a w-o-w?"

His roommate, and partner in the development of a proprietary slang vocabulary, stopped fingerpicking the acoustic guitar and answered for him.

"Waste of weed, man," he said.

The dealer nodded and looked at me like I'd just become a Freemason.

"Waste," said the dealer. "Of weed."

I had grown up in an age when joints were the coin of the realm. Who smoked joints? My parents and all their friends. The Beatles in probably half the pictures you've ever seen of them. Those rapscallions in The Breakfast Club. Danny the dealer in Withnail and I. Cheech. Chong. Everybody. It was the culture's standard unit of measurement for marijuana consumption, the reason you could win roach clips at the county fair, the inspiration for whoever invented the verb "to bogart."

I always preferred the joint to other delivery devices. Something about the telltale two-handed physical process of the pipe (to say nothing of the implement itself) struck me as embarrassing, as well as inconvenient. The bong offers a pleasant sensation, but it's similarly shameful, not an object that belongs in a grown-up's home. Plus it's a stupid word. Joints are urbane, portable, communal, and versatile. And they get you high without requiring you to lift a ceramic replica of the starship Enterprise to your lips or feel the noxious splash of bong water on your lips as you suck up that gurgling sound that makes a dorm out of every room.

My first trip to Amsterdam was, not coincidentally, during my stoner heyday, and I had the stereotypically gluttonous response of a 22-year-old American tourist who got at least a little high at least three times every day back home. But for all the fragrant variety of the exotic strains available over the coffee-shop counters, the most decadent menu item by far were the pre-rolled joints. My eyes bulged when I saw them. They were so long and white and perfect. But more to the point, they were JOINTS. PRE-ROLLED. IN PACKS! As in: Someone else had rolled them. Expertly.

This meant two important things: (1) I could have joints, and (2) I didn't have to roll them. I nearly wept with gratitude, bought more than enough to last the length of my relatively short stay, and swaggered around the dog-shit-smeared cobblestones of that glorious city like a millionaire.

Until I happened upon some American backpackers (and one surly Belgian) outside the Febo, that is. No one throws shade at American tourists in a European country like fellow American tourists. This crew sneered at me and my pre-rolled joints the way Fugazi fans used to sneer at people in Third Eye Blind T-shirts.

"Smokin' some pot, huh?" said one of them. They all snickered. But I had seen them come out of a coffee shop. They were obviously high, too. I may have been paranoid, but their implication couldn't have been clearer: If there was one thing worse than joints, it was pre-rolled joints.

Or maybe they just thought I was disgusting. I couldn't dispute it. I had just eaten like nine croquettes, after all.

I wish I hadn't been too stoned to tell those a-hole backpackers that rolling your own cigarettes requires a fetishy love of process and paraphernalia that I simply can't muster. I lack both the skill and the time to do for myself what others are much, much better at doing for me. Should I refrain from eating in restaurants, too? Must I hand-stitch my own clothes? Brew my own beer? What, at long last, is the problem with a pre-rolled joint? After all, we're talking about smoking pot, right? RIGHT? We're not rationing our drinking water after being marooned on Mars. How can one way be better than another?

The idea that the humble jazz cigarette is somehow wasteful is based on the premise that weed is in short supply. As one who has scraped clean his fair share of pipes and burned his fingertips smoking the resin off the tip of the mangled safety pin, I'm not indifferent to that concern. But the days of marijuana scarcity are behind us. Thanks to the hard work of all those activists, we are no longer in a position of having to make our stash last longer.

We are no longer in a position to have to think of it as a "stash" at all.