I Have Seen the Future, and It’s the Marijuana Dispensary


Occasionally, we see the future. The Wright Brothers taking off in Kitty Hawk. The invention of penicillin. Seeing man walk on the moon, or getting our first look at free internet porn. Today, the future has arrived in the form of legalized marijuana.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting family in The People’s Republic of Massachusetts. It’s where I grew up. When it comes to the handy American political dichotomy of progressive vs. conservative, Massachusetts has a well-deserved place in the former camp. Liz Warren is from there, and whether it’s the abolitionists, Ted Kennedy, or Romneycare, the Bay State has long leaned Left.

Now, Massachusetts has legalized recreational marijuana. Remember when John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson talked about legal weed in Amsterdam in Pulp Fiction, 25 years ago? Well, Massachusetts has gone the way of Amsterdam. Other states—ten, in fact—have done likewise. In Mass, dispensaries are popping up everywhere. Even my small town of Barre (population 5,000) is considering one.

My June visit to a Mass marijuana dispensary was my second such trip. This was the first time I bought something. Actually, what I bought was for my wife. She wanted some edibles.

I’ve never been a weed guy. My experience with Mary Jane has been limited to a handful of encounters with joints, smoked with varying degrees of effectiveness. But I’ve never taken to jazz cigarettes. And honestly, the weed culture has annoyed me in ways that might have undercut further attempts at descending into refer madness.

As always, I blame my high school years for my lack of exposure to the counterculture. I wasn’t cool enough for the kids who listened to the Grateful Dead and watched Cheech and Chong movies. Even had I access to Maui Wowie, there was nowhere at home I could possibly have smoked it. My closest friends weren’t into it. And there was the fact that I was always broke and weed was illegal. Maybe it was easy to get, but I never sought it out. Puffing on a friend’s doobie was as far as I was going to take it.

In 2019 in Massachusetts, you can now smoke-up without fear of breaking the law. The dispensary I visited last month was in Northampton, which, if you don’t know about it, is located in the western part of the state and is probably the most liberal town in New England. It’s the home of Smith College, which is not far from Amherst, U-Mass, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke. It’s is a place where people ride granola bicycles.

Okay, maybe they don’t do that. But the day I was there, the dispensary was busy. It all felt so Northampton, so Massachusetts. So small college town. The dispensary was run with Teutonic efficiency. A dude outside checked my ID while I waited in the line. He let dopers inside three or four at a time. Once in the door, I was handed a menu that contained dozens of items, from Rempen and Rubi vape pens to nuggets, lozenges, kief, and suppositories. It’s like being at a bar with 100 beers on tap.

The place was clean, felt new, was well lit, and staffed with friendly, helpful people. Dozens of sweetleafers were inside. I was at the counter in only a few minutes. The clerk checked my ID again. I got a bottle of gummies. 20 total. The amount of THC was 100 MG. And it wasn’t cheap. The bottle cost about $30.

I left out the back door. On the grass behind the dispensary was a sign: “No Smoking.” Ah, the irony.

Massachusetts is at least years ahead of other states in making the devil’s lettuce legal. Where I live now, Virginia, is woefully behind the times. Some progressive forces are working to change that, especially when it comes to the cruel and infantile laws against medicinal marijuana. Conservatives don’t seem to care that herb actually brings great relief to people suffering from all sorts of ailments, from glaucoma to cancer to insomnia. That Republican politicians are okay with denying weed to cancer patients pretty much sums up today’s GOP.

Conservatives maintain their anti-marijuana stance using whatever BS rationale is handy and provocative. Conservatives often like to make a slippery slope argument: legalize weed and the next thing you now, your kids will be letting Keith Richards shoot them in the eyeball with heroin. None of these “anti” arguments can withstand scrutiny, though, and time is on the side of pro-marijuana forces. As with so many things, people will eventually look back at anti-marijuana laws and think: “what was all the fuss about?”

That said, going to a dispensary is a weird experience. Despite the legal realities of Panama Red in Massachusetts, I still felt like I was doing something wrong. I did try one of the marijuana gummies later. It didn’t do much for me. I’m sure I’ll try one again before long.

Even so, I doubt ganja will become a way of life for me. I don’t think I’ll be toking up and watching Up in Smoke or listening to American Beauty anytime soon. Some things drugs can’t help make better.

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