Northwest Marijuana Guide
Two polarized camps dominated the pot conversation last year: On one side were stoners doing gravity-bong hits, and on the other side were cops warning that legal pot would lead to toddlers freebasing heroin. But one group was left out of the discussion entirely: people who had never smoked pot—because pot was illegal—but planned to try the stuff when voters legalized it.
I tracked down a few of these greenhorn stoners.
Eric and his wife, Jenny, smoked pot for the first time last December, just after Initiative 502 became law. "Our first foray into getting pot involved me deliberating for two weeks before reaching out to a neighbor to score us an eighth," he says. "I finally got the courage to ask her via text message."
Taking up pot smoking has been a healthy bonding experience for the couple, Eric says, because, among other things, they tend to stay home more, get stoned, and cook dinners together instead of heading out to a restaurant. The middle-class couple eat healthier, and he's lost 40 pounds since February, partially due to the fact that they now drink just once or twice a month instead of three or four days a week.
"I worry about smoking too much weed, or weed getting in the way of other things I want to do, but so far it hasn't been any worse than drinking—other than not really being in tune with Seattle's nightlife," Eric says, because the couple doesn't go out as much. "At the end of the day, it's another fun way to pass the time relatively safely."
Dan, who also declined to provide his last name, is another recent convert. He says he'd been listening to antidrug rhetoric since he was a teenager. "For weeks after trying dope this year, I assumed I would wake up with a needle in my arm giving a handjob for cash—because Nancy Reagan fucked my generation up so bad," jokes the 46-year-old Microsoft employee. "Fortunately, that hasn't happened."
The problem for Dan, Eric, Jenny, and other new pot smokers is that while possessing and smoking pot is legal, selling marijuana outside of a medical marijuana cooperative is not (and you need a medical marijuana authorization to join those). The state's 334 recreational marijuana stores aren't slated to open until roughly next June.
Eric says Jenny simply obtained a medical marijuana authorization. "She has some health issues that pot helps with," Eric says. But they say getting a medical authorization was mostly a matter of "convenience, quality, and price." That also allowed them to plant a small cannabis garden in September.
Likewise, Dan visited his doctor to get a recommendation to use cannabis. "My back was killing me—I've had two medical procedures on it this year," he says. "And I was told it would help with my high blood pressure." And also like Eric and Jenny, he says he "was looking to cut down on the booze."
How's being a stoner working out?
"One thing that has been difficult for me is I know what a drink is and what it will do to me. I don't really know what a dose of pot is, and no one seems to share ideas about that amount," Dan explains. "I just make sure I don't do any after midnight, and I am fine by work."
Fortunately, when the retail stores open, dosage will be listed on the packages. Until then, some would-be weed stokers are biding their time.
Ben, a graduate student, is one of them. He is not yet a full-blown pot smoker, but he may become one when access and information improve. Ben says he has tried pot a few times, when it's been offered by friends or at parties, but the experiences have been hit-and-miss.
"I'm looking forward to the chance to try different strains, with specific recommendations for each strain," says Ben. "I don't really want to buy pot from some guy on the street, or bug my friends about it, or try to get a prescription. I just don't care that much—but if it's available down the street in a non-sketchy way, then I'll definitely try it again."
Other people, such as Joy, are waiting to retire. Joy lives in Oregon but has a career as a medical professional in Washington—basically, her career simultaneously puts her within reach of legal marijuana while prohibiting her from taking advantage of it. Complicating matters, she also has a debilitating disease.
"I am fairly confident that I will explore marijuana's effects, both medical and recreational, when my clinical career ends," says Joy. "As someone who has never smoked... and was raised by conservatives who fully supported the war on drugs, this feels like a startling evolution."