In the mid-1990s, I experienced some kind of divine intervention at a gas station in Columbus, Texas.
I was 16 and I was driving from Austin to Houston with three friends to go to Astroworld when we stopped for gas. We had little money, nothing to smoke and a full day of roller coasters and food in the amusement park ahead of us.
It felt grim.
At the cash register in the gas station, a young woman was standing at the counter buying no less than a dozen packets of Swisher Sweet Perfectos, which were piled on a hill next to the cash register. Moments later we made eye contact across the parking lot, I put my index finger on my thumb to my mouth and she motioned for her to follow. We drove to an apartment complex in town and she leaned in my window and said “3 swishers for $ 10” – I gave her a 10 and a minute later she was back with three blunts.
We drove into town enthusiastically this last hour and were overwhelmed by our happiness. A few hours later I rode a roller coaster for the first time (XLR-8, followed by the Viper and Greezed Lightnin ‘).
When I look back on the past 25+ years since I first came past the Dart Bowl in my freshman year at McCallum High, I can think of a number of weird, random cases of luck or stupid marijuana coincidence. There was my guardian angel in Columbus, but also the skinhead / weed dealer who appeared out of thin, bare air in the courtyard of a residential complex in Split, Croatia, or the guy from Canada, Texas – of all things – that I met in a bar in Seville, Spain, and who ducked between beers for a minute and came back with a nug in a bag that he sold me for 5 euros.
All of these stories share certain traits in common – young men in a dry place happily and accidentally stumbling into unexpected weeds and an unforgettable story. They were hallmarks of a not-too-distant past in the States when weed was pretty much illegal and half the battle was only finding a way to get it.
But what about now, years later, when cannabis reform hits the globe and becomes more mainstream every day? And what if what often got you into trouble becomes what you actually (legally) do for a living?
- Dress up for the job you want
According to the Sages of LinkedIn, people should “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. If that’s the case, I’ve been dressing for “cannabis writer” since I was 14, although that wardrobe decision only paid off a little over a year ago when I was hired as a full-time writer for The cannigma.
Beyond that, however, it’s the mental range I’ve put into chasing weeds over the years, decades before I knew that wasting all that time could be viewed as on-the-job training.
Since I was a freshman in high school, marijuana has been one of the few subcultures that I could tell I was a part of. (I’m 41 now, even if cannabis is still a subculture, no subculture should have me as a member, and if so, I don’t want to be a part of it.) It was a feature of everyday life in most of the circles I ran in. A commonality that could always be found between the random people who drifted through my life and something that could always be relied on to fill in the boredom for a minute.
But a job? The next thing I ever had before The Cannigma was as a pizza delivery driver at college in Austin, which was basically a job in the cannabis industry before the legal industry existed.
- Do you understand or do you believe in the product?
During a couple of years working in the Israeli high-tech world, there were repeated considerations when looking at job vacancies. What does this company do and do you believe in their product? Or can you even understand what your product is doing?
With cannabis, that was never an issue. I am very familiar with the product and can definitely explain what it does. But beyond that, an integral part of my job as a cannabis writer and one that I really care about on a personal level is explaining what it does – and how it does it. It is also one that, despite what I thought I knew, still manages to surprise and educate me on a daily basis.
In hi-tech there is also this representation of people as “evangelists” of a product or a technology concept. When it comes to the current product – marijuana – I can definitely stand up for it and speak objectively, well-researched, and honestly about how I can feel good about myself. Can I be a cannabis evangelist? Perhaps a Methodist is more accurate on cannabis, but yes, it’s an easy product to get over with.
Because what can you say about the product? It’s incredibly versatile – it can be an actual form of medicine to treat the symptoms of a wide variety of medical conditions, and it’s just something that makes people feel good. It can help potentially disadvantaged communities and struggling farmers find a way to a better future, and it can just be a lot more fun to walk in the rain at night. I also know that during the pandemic it has helped countless people around the world – including me. It was one of the things that helped me laugh at what our world had become and allowed me to put the fear and uncertainty aside, if only for a short time.
- Not all of the grass is greener
The cannabis industry is a fun, fascinating, and surprising place that mixes the uncertainties of a bubble economy and the feeling of being part of something positive that is quickly evolving into a future we cannot quite yet imagine. It doesn’t have the same cynicism that prevailed when I was in journalism, and there seems to be this constant, prevalent feeling on LinkedIn and countless industry webinars: “I can’t believe I can actually do this for a living ! ”
But with all the positive attitudes, there is a lot that worries the cannabis business. In the United States, Israel, and elsewhere, in the age of normalization and legal weed money, we are seeing the influx of a ton of notable actors including former police officers, security officers, politicians, and John Boehner. Many of them are literally the exact same people who followed the people who built this industry long before it became legal, and after other people started work or ruined their lives in the U.S. criminal justice system, these other people are ready to make money in big time.
There’s the way that for decades black and brown communities disproportionately paid the price of the ban and are disproportionately not the ones supposed to benefit from the legal cannabis wind blow. There is a worrying lack of social justice in cannabis, and a feeling that like almost any other industry, it will band together around a small sample of juggernauts who have the capital and resources to crush small and independent producers and entrepreneurs.
There are also the effects the cannabis industry can have on the environment and global warming.
With all of this, working with cannabis is often reminiscent of the realization that all those years of imprisonment or parole, parents had to break the law to get their children treated, and that patients had no access to medication, and of people breaking the law and having a low-level heart attack because a police officer pulled behind them at a traffic light could begin to disappear into the fog.
In the end, all I can say to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, the Austin Police Department, the Tel Aviv Police Department, and the Southwest Regional Branch of the United Synagogue Youth is – I won.