Hooking up ain’t easy
Buying marijuana should be as simple as scoring a burrito at a Del Taco drive-thru. Hell, in a perfect world, you’d be able to purchase weed at Del Taco.
Unfortunately, finding herb oftentimes is like trying to locate a touched-down meteor in Tuolumne County—nearly impossible. In California, a physician can prescribe marijuana and a cannabis dispensary will sell it to you for a competitive price. But if you don’t have a medical condition, an Rx or a regular dealer, sometimes you have to get creative.
“Hey, can we pass through for some hamburgers?”
Wait, does anyone here even eat meat? Ah, it’s a watchword.
“Aight. Thanks.” A friend hangs up her cell and beams ear-to-ear, her blond Ronald McDonald fro topping off her smile like vanilla ice cream in a bowl.
We have a hook up.
In her Honda Civic, we zoom south on 24th Street. At U Street we park, exit the car, backtrack a block and a half and cut through the alleyway between S and T streets. Then we beeline through the rear entrance of an apartment complex, passing a laundry room and a contingent of brewski chuggers loafing on the hood of an old Trans Am parked in a dirt lot. She raps on a nearby door.
Outside the apartment, it totally reeks of weed. When the door opens, the smell is even danker. A guy with the same ice-cream smile appears. He’s tang, too. You could wrap him up in a King Pin, light him up and pass him to the left-hand side. Maybe this guy is the chronic. They say marijuana is a gateway drug, but who knew it can induce metamorphosis.
“Get in here,” he invites.
Inside, we sit on a pile of junk—clothes, video-game controllers, grocery bags, coloring books, action figures. There may be a couch underneath the mess. Who knows? You could roll 10 joints with all the weed shake littered everywhere: tiny nibbles on a nearby table, crumbs in the carpet and probably in the tread of our shoes, roaches atop the TV. Five cats scamper about; they must be high. The guy reappears from the hallway with three large Ziploc bags filled with pot.
Bag one: AK-47, a potent herb with an extremely strong odor and smoke. “Packs a punch.” Forty-five bucks for an eighth.
Bag two: Afghan goo. It’s sticky. An eighth for $50.
Bag three: the Purpz. We’re told it’s an energetic, incredible high, and it’s blue. But it’s going to cost us: $60.
In California, medicinal-marijuana patients with the proper ID legally can carry up to eight dried ounces of herb on their person. That day, we left the apartment with an ounce of various cannabis rolled up in baggies and packed into our socks. Neither of us had an ID. If you could smell yourself from a mile away, we would have been able to. Drive home with the windows down, come to a complete stop, use your blinkers.
This is the hook up.
If scoring weed on the street seems too daunting, there’s always the doc’s office. California is one of 12 U.S. states to legalize medical marijuana. With a prescription and an ID, you can lawfully purchase, possess and grow pot. That said, the feds don’t recognize the state laws: They can bust you, and they will. And lately the feds have been going after cannabis clubs—and even patients—with a vengeance.
On July 31, the DEA seized the assets of the renowned and respected Berkeley cannabis club Berkeley Patients Group. The Los Angeles Police Department—slightly out of its jurisdiction—helped in the raid. Berkeley Patients Group assists some 3,000 East Bay patients. The Group’s assets have been frozen by the feds.
Also in July, patients and employees of L.A.-based cannabis club California Patients Group, Berkeley Patients Group’s sister club, were handcuffed during a raid, but no one was arrested. An amateur filmmaker captured the ordeal on video and posted clips on YouTube, which showed an LAPD officer wearing DEA garb and assisting in the search. The L.A. City Council, meanwhile, vehemently has denied that local law enforcement is colluding with the feds on raids, with the council even passing a resolution supporting moves in Congress to ban the DEA from going after medical-marijuana patients. But in the same action, the council temporarily prohibited new cannabis clubs from opening in L.A. County beginning September 14.
A couple weeks ago, after repeated assurances that they would never go after patients, the feds issued subpoenas demanding the medical records of 17 Oregon medicinal-marijuana patients. Coupled with multiple strikes against California dispensaries, this represents a sea change in the DEA’s attitude toward sick people and their medicinal-cannabis providers.
Has this had a chilling effect? Sacramento club owners and operators are so nervous they would not speak to SN&R on the record.
The heat is on. Smokers increasingly are reluctant to go legit and acquire an ID for fear of having their names on “the list”—a rumored database of all medicinal-marijuana users in United States. Instead, it’s back to hooking up the old fashioned way: on the streets, which by no means is ideal.
The reason most patients, many terminally ill, prefer to buy from clubs is because it’s both safer and a sure thing. On the streets, you don’t know what you’re going to pay, whether the quality’s any good, and even if you’ve been shortchanged. Why should grandma buy from a dodgy house in Alkali Flat on C Street when she can purchase from a cannabis dispensary legally, safely and typically without complication? Interestingly, marijuana grown in said house also was sold to neighborhood dispensaries. (For the record, it’s cheaper to hook up on the streets than at your average dispensary—though dues-based collectives are even more affordable than either.)
Most recreational smokers aren’t concerned with getting arrested. If you’re caught with more than an ounce of marijuana and no patient ID, you’ll get probation, six months in county and a $500 fine. But it’s rare that anyone serves time. If you’re caught with less than an ounce, the penalty’s a slap on the wrist: $100 fine and court fees. Still, your arthritic grandma doesn’t want to buy weed on the streets. Why not? Four balls of hash illustrate the perils.
The balls looked just like Whoppers and weighed 29 grams. At $30 a gram, they had a street value of, well, you do the math. Hash most commonly is made via a painstakingly tedious water-extraction process where an individual takes an already harvested plant and uses the leftovers for their resin. Cold water and porous cloths and a whole lot of filtering—and a houseful of plants.
These particular hash balls came from an Elk Grove abode, a tract home not unlike those raided in the summer of ’06. Don’t even pretend to know what goes on in these houses: This is ground zero for suburban black ops. The landlord has no clue the tenants have gutted the walls and installed makeshift ventilation systems. The landlord has no clue that twice a month some 50 trash bags of marijuana sit in the garage, and that during the night a fleet of flower-delivery men pick up the stash and hit the streets.
If the clueless landlord ever unsuspectingly stumbled upon the operation, they’d pay him to shut up. If that didn’t work, well … marijuana is a $14 billion-a-year enterprise in California.
California cities want to filter out scam artists and sketch suburban elements so that people can safely buy weed from licensed purveyors. But dispensary owners are nervous, their landlords receive threats, patients are uneasy and even growers don’t want to be caught in a club in the event of an untimely DEA crackdown.
The hook up ain’t getting easier.
In the future, what’s it gonna take to score some weed in this state?