Thomas James

It's winter in Seattle, when all you want to do is curl up with a good book, a hot cup of tea, and a bottle or two of Ambien. Alas, sleeping your way through winter is not actually an option for us lowly hominids—you will wake up, I've tried—but there are ways to survive this season without overdosing on sleeping pills or walking around with a SAD lamp glued to your face.

My prescription is simple: weed and weekend trips. (I also hear exercise is effective, but I can't vouch for that.)

Weed, unlike alcohol and other drugs, will numb you from the existential pain of being alive when the sun sets at 4 p.m., with no hangover or come down. Sure, it may lower your IQ by a few points, but what would you rather be, smart or stoned? Weed is the perfect drug for all seasons, but especially this dark and dismal one, and if there is any proof of intelligent design in this universe, it's not man—it's weed.

But weed alone won't get you through winter. You also need to get off your couch and go on as many weekend trips as possible. It's way healthier to lounge on someone else's couch than your own, so, if you must, call it "self-care" and commit to getting out of the city. Hawaii or Mexico would be ideal, but let's be real, rent is too goddamn high for plane tickets these days. Short weekend trips are more doable. Because travel is always easier without children, I recommend not having any. If it's too late for that, give your kids away. This might sound difficult, but there are lots of lesbians and gays looking for kids. Try them.

Now that all that's out of the way, it's time to plan. A few of my top winter weekend destinations are... just kidding! I'll never tell. There are too many goddamn people in Tacoma already. But I will divulge one winter trip that should help relieve those winter dumps: Canada.

Canada is magic. Not only does the head of state not conduct public policy by tweet, the country has sensible gun laws and universal health care, and you don't have to name your fetus and pay for a funeral before you get an abortion. It's also pretty.

I made the trip last winter with my girlfriend, who, for some god-awful reason, decided that if we were going to spend a weekend eating poutine and butter tarts, we should also get our heart rates up. Despite my threats to leave her, she borrowed two sets of cross-country skis, found a Nordic ski area without too many hills, and booked the ferry up to Vancouver Island.

The day before our trip, I realized we had a serious problem: What the fuck were we going to do about weed? Even if Canada is about as exotic as Pensacola, it is technically a different country. You can't just drive across the border with weed. Of course, we could forgo it for the weekend, but this was a cross-country ski trip. Cross-country skiing is just exercise with cold toes. The only way to get through it is with a healthy dose of THC in your bloodstream, but I doubted that customs officials would agree.

It was a lesson we had learned before. On a road trip the previous spring to the Southwest, we'd been relieved of a quarter ounce of cannabis thanks to a nosy border patrol drug dog in New Mexico. It sniffed out our stash from underneath the passenger seat at an interstate traffic stop. You never want to hear the words "Please step out of the vehicle" from someone with the power to arrest you, but "Please step out of the vehicle" was exactly what we heard. We were taken to a small room, where we waited as agents pawed through our car. Because I am the bigger stoner and it was more my fault than hers that we had weed in our car, I quietly told my girlfriend that I would take the blame but she was sure as shit covering bail and replacing our stash.

I needn't have offered. After making us sweat it out for a while, the local prosecutor declined to press charges after the agents ran our prints and saw that our records were clean. This was one of those moments when I saw, clear as day, the obscene reality of white privilege. Had we not been two white women—had we been people of color, say—this likely would have ended very differently.

Nationwide, black and brown people are far more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, and that's true even where weed is legal. But my girlfriend and I looked like two lily-white gal pals on vacation. When it was over, if you can believe it, a border patrol agent even gave us back our glass pipe. The hardest part of the whole experience came after they let us go, when my girlfriend made me leave the half ounce they hadn't found beside a Taco Bell dumpster in Las Cruces. It was a very long drive home.

That was not an experience we wanted to repeat, and as we packed for Canada, my girlfriend argued that we shouldn't risk it—we'd already gotten lucky once. Plus, she couldn't have any on the way up anyway, because she was driving. I responded that we can't let fear limit our life experience, plus there was no way I was going cross-country skiing without weed. An hour later, we compromised: We'd bring edibles. Surely, drug dogs can't smell brownies bites. Right?

As we discovered in New Mexico, local authorities have a lot of leeway when it comes to prosecuting drug crimes. The same is true on the northern border, says attorney Aaron Pelley of 7 Point Law, a Seattle-based firm specializing in cannabis. In 2013, the Obama administration instructed the Department of Justice not to pursue cannabis cases in states where weed is legal, and Pelley says he hardly ever sees prosecution for possession anymore. But in early January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions—who infamously once said that he thought the KKK was "okay until I found out they smoke pot"—revoked this policy. While city and state leaders, including Governor Jay Inslee, have said they will continue to defend Washington's cannabis laws, it is possible that the DOJ could shut down the entire recreational cannabis industry in the United States—an industry that, according to Bloomberg, is projected to be worth $50 billion by 2026.

Our trip was last January, a few weeks before Trump took his throne. On the way into Canada, a ginger-haired Canadian glanced at our passports and our skis and asked where we were headed. "Should be plenty of snow up there for ya," he said as he waved us through. There was nary a drug dog in sight.

We spent the weekend walking along the Nanaimo harbor and cross-country skiing at Mount Washington with our smuggled-in edibles. The experience was so enhanced by the brownie bites that I almost enjoyed it, although not nearly as much as I enjoyed watching Sex in the City reruns in a stranger's Airbnb. After two days and two nights blissfully out of Seattle, we headed home, a baggie of leftover brownie bites tucked neatly into my bag.

If it was as easy leaving Canada as it was getting in, I thought, there should be no problem at all.

The line at the border going into the United States was much longer than the line going out. Security was tighter. We drove off the ferry at the Port Angeles Border Patrol Station and inched forward as a German shepherd weaved around cars, sniffing. As the dog got closer and closer, the palms of my hands started to sweat, and soon enough, an agent approached and asked us to pull over.

"Jesus fucking Christ," I said to my girlfriend as she pulled out of line. "I am never going cross-country skiing again."

This time, they let us stay in the car. This was a mistake—on their part. After a tense hour of waiting for everyone else to get through customs, agents asked us to step out of the vehicle and then went through our bags. By that time, however, there was nothing for them to find. The brownie bites the dog had smelled were busy digesting in my stomach. All of them. My eyes had already started to glaze.

After finding nothing, the agents apologized for the wait, thanked us for our patience, and gave us each a green pen stamped with the US Customs logo, perhaps to remember them by. And then we turned toward Seattle under an unusually vibrant sky, once more with a valuable lesson: Don't bring weed into Canada. But if you do, really don't bring it back home.

I later learned that all it takes to buy grass in British Columbia is an ID proving you're over 19. Recreational weed might not be legal yet, but medical weed is, and unlike Seattle, most shops don't actually require a doctor's note. You just walk into a dispensary, fill out a form, check off a box for your "medical condition," and they sell you weed right there in the same place.

So the entire dramatic episode of bringing weed over the border was, it turned out, unnecessary. But getting out of Seattle was not, so we're doing it again this winter. And this time, we're doing it right: no contraband brownies, no border crossing stress—just the two of us, those goddamn cross-country skis, and Canada's blissfully easy medical marijuana shops.