It's easy to forget that weed is a subculture, and a rather inaccessible one for most people. While your Republican grandma in Arizona might want to smoke weed now that she can get a medical marijuana card for her arthritis, she probably has no clue how to actually do it, how it will feel, what snacks she should buy, or what to put on the tube. Seattle writer David Schmader, who spent a decade and a half at The Stranger aggregating the world's worst and weirdest news into a surprisingly uplifting column called Last Days, wrote a book to clue her in. It's called Weed: The User's Guide. Buy her this book.
Buy everyone this book. The information inside is absolutely indispensable for stoners and novices alike. Schmader tackles all the basics of bud, plus plenty of esoteric but equally important stuff. It's got everything from the ancient history of pot (where he considers the all-important question "Was Jesus a stoner?") to a compound-by-compound breakdown of all the chemicals that make pot pot. While it's extremely useful and educational, it's also just really fun to read, which is no surprise coming from Schmader.
The Seattle release party happens on 4/20 at SIFF Cinema Egyptian, the movie theater on Capitol Hill, with Schmader's favorite thing to watch high on a screen and every stoner's favorite high snack ever: movie theater popcorn. Schmader will also host a panel discussion at Town Hall on April 22 to talk pot with a bunch of other brilliant local minds: cartoonist (and light rail station muralist!) Ellen Forney, KEXP DJ Riz Rollins, former city council member Nick Licata, and author/podcaster/sex columnist Dan Savage.
You make not one but two Maureen Dowd jokes in this book. I think it's the solemn duty of anybody who writes about weed to never let her live that down, so... thanks.
Um, yeah, you are very welcome. I feel like she's the victim, though. Like, a new industry should not sell products that make its customers feel like they're already dead. This is a high-functioning, intelligent Pulitzer Prize winner who still had her life seriously disrupted by eating the wrong cookie.
I felt bad that everyone was saying, "How dumb is she?" She's not dumb, she's Maureen Dowd!
Yeah, if it can happen to her, it can happen to anyone! Clearly they needed better packaging on these things, and we're getting it.
Your book definitely took me back to the good old days, like the section on how to deal with your dealer, where you talk about the awkward ritual of purchasing pot that no one has to go through anymore.
Oh, I know! The lost culture, no one is talking about it.
What was the example of something horrible your dealer would force you to watch when you bought weed? Sasquatch documentaries?
That's real. That was a Stranger distributor who was a great friend to all of us. He was reliable, but he also would make you watch Sasquatch documentaries to get your weed. He would even make me lay hands on a piece of plaster with a Sasquatch footprint on it. You'd have to go deep.
What is your relationship with pot?
I tried it in high school and I thought, "Oh that's fine." It wasn't until college that I felt like it really hit. I went to a theater conservatory, so there were a lot of smokers. I didn't buy it for myself until I was in my late 20s because I was always around people who would just share it with me. I was such a lightweight, they would give me a little puff and I would buy the chips and that would be fine.
In college, it was really about "Wow, this changes things. It can really enhance the experiences I already love." Then I kind of gave it up when I was leaving college behind. Then at the end of my 20s, I thought, "Hey, let's try this again," and it was like, "This does a lot of things I really like, reliably."
What kinds of things does it enhance for you?
Once I figured out the right dosage (which was lighter than what a lot of my friends enjoyed), I learned that weed enhanced pretty much all sensory experience. My first mind-blowing experience involved melted cheese, and my second involved listening to music (the Velvet Underground's third record was a big one for me). It felt like weed called me into the present and allowed me to engage with art in a deeper and certainly easier way than just calling myself into the present. After melted cheese and the Velvet Underground, key early weed experiences involved Indian food, History of Art college textbooks, Robert Altman films, and what I call Socratic comedies—movies that act dumb to show they're smart, like Clueless and Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. Ultimate area of enhancement: kissing and everything after.
Are you a daily partaker?
It's pretty close to every day. I'm in a marriage where we both are like, "Hey remember that crutch we both love that's reliable and hasn't ruined our lives?" It's definitely a crutch—but what a beautiful crutch!
What else has weed done for you?
My relationship to weed has helped me get some empathy. I married into a Mormon family. At the end of the day, I like to have a puff and contextualize my thoughts a little bit. And other people like to sit in church for three hours on Sunday and be told what to do. And let's not judge each other! We each have our preferred drug, and as long as we're not hurting anyone else that's fine.
What do you think of the so-called "green rush," where pot is becoming a big money game? Your book was very much a throwback to classic stoner culture and the underground economy of it. And now weed is becoming less of a culture and more of an industry.
I'm a medical user—like, officially—so I still go to dispensaries. I haven't had much experience with the recreational pot shops. But we get these exported facts about how oppressively Caucasian [commercial pot] is and how oppressively non-Caucasian drug sentencing is, and it makes you feel gross. That's definitely a part of the popular conversation: "How do we make this a really guilt-free pleasure?" We've taken the prohibition away from it in parts of the country, but there's still this gross residue of the inequality of prosecution and opportunity.
It's still pretty uncomfortable to go to a recreational store and think about that.
Especially when it's right where the prohibition dealers used to stand and risk their lives and futures. It's kind of knife-twisty. And as for the medical side, they're like, "Oh, how dare they institute these changes!?" But if you call something medicine, eventually you're going to get pharmacy rules. You won! But now you have to internalize [the rules] and have carpeting and have hours and... yeah.
What's your favorite weird product out there, now that we have everything?
I haven't tried it yet, but I'm so thrilled it exists: It's a topical roll-on, like deodorant, but earlier topicals went no deeper than the skin and offered no pleasurable effects beyond the site-specific diminishment of pain. But the new topicals reach all the way into your bloodstream, making it possible to get high by just rubbing something on your skin. No ingestion, no inhalation. The brand I've seen is from Mary's Medicinals.
Like the weed patch? Where you just put a little patch on your skin?
Yeah, it's like the patch! They finally figured out how to get it into your bloodstream. The previous topical I had was all about muscle relief, and it didn't have anything to do with your bloodstream.
Where do you stand on people naming their bongs?
Naming their bongs? That's a little outer edge for me. I'm a dog lover, but I don't call them "fur babies." It's just, "I love dogs." Same with bongs. I don't need to personalize my bong. I like a bong that does its job; it doesn't need a name. Its name is "Bong."
What about dabs? Do you dab?
No! My only experience is being served a dab. I've never tried home dabbing because it feels way too much like hot knives. It seems very retro. But the effect of a dab is like the tequila shot of weed, it's pretty amazing. I like the feeling, but the open flame seems... there's something about both crack and heroin using open flames that gives me a bit of an icky feeling about having a personal flamethrower around my leisure drug.
They could make it look a little bit less like something you do in the alley behind the Crocodile.
I'm sure they will. I'm sure there will be some amazing Mr. Coffee revolution in the dab world where it's like this, "The heating element touches this and you don't even have to be there!" But right now, it still feels a little like "I'm tyin' off my arm!"
What's your favorite weird strain name?
I don't really have strain favorites. I'm boring. Sativa when the sun shines and indica in the evening. But I've never really attached super closely to a strain. I guess Blue Dream is a recurring thing.
So you're not swayed by somebody being like, "This is the most amazing Gorilla Blue Cheese Couch Glue"?
If the price is right, I'll try it. If the price is like caviar, I'll be like, "That's cute, see ya later."
What's your favorite thing to do while you're stoned other than narrating Showgirls?
Ooh! That's a good segue into the book-release party at the Egyptian. It's on 4/20 and Collide-O-Scope asked me, "What do you want to do for your high party?" Well, my favorite thing to do, which is watch Collide-O-Scope. They're kind of video collage makers. It's just like freaky things and it really exploits that associative thinking that weed brings. Where you're like, "You don't need to tell me why this connects to that—I feel why!" The idea was to have one event for people who are really high and have one event that's culturally about weed and would be enjoyable and enlightening for people who are not (necessarily) high. The Collide-O-Scope one is the fun-for-high-people one! The second event is at Town Hall on Friday, April 22, and features me, Dan Savage, Riz Rollins, Ellen Forney, and Nick Licata.
Video collages are the best thing for high eyes. I love that you called out TV Carnage in the book.
You can delight high people by just showing them things that they would appreciate that have nothing to do with weed. That's a big part of the book. In my life, weed is hardly ever the main character. It's always the supporting character for things I already love.
I find the funniest thing about so-called "stoner culture" is that so much time is spent focusing on weed itself, instead of doing fun shit while you're high.
Yeah, I love smoking weed and living my normal life. I don't love smoking weed and talking about weed. It's worse than talking about Sasquatch!