By Jack Rikess
Of the supposedly 43 million Americans who smoke marijuana, there is such a small percent of us that are allowed to have safe and easy access to our drug of choice, that to complain seems to be a little elitist and even downright spoiled. Having a medical marijuana card has changed my life for definitely the better and not to be redundant, and it’s made scoring much safer.
But if you’re of a certain age and generation, because of the nature of prohibition, the only way to score our pot was to go to someone’s home.
As much as I love having a card and going to the Pot Shop, or having it delivered, I miss the interaction of the old daze.
So…here’s my list of what I miss about seeing my Man (or Woman, as it were) to score.
1) Old School Etiquette.Believe it or not, in the old daze there was an incredibly set of manners involved in buying pot.
Upon arriving at your Dealer’s pad, you would never mention why you were there. Everyone knows why.
To ask to see the product was totally uncool. Politeness dictated that you had to wait ’till your Man pull out his wares. Then he or she would roll one for consumption.
If you decided to buy, after weighing it out, (more about this later) you would then roll one from your newly purchased lid, (yes that was what it was called) and seal the deal with another joint.
To do otherwise was seen as being a capitalist, possible narc, and worse, maybe a person who wouldn’t be asked back into these hallowed grounds.
2) The Relationship.
When it is my turn at the counter in a dispensary, if I know the Budtender, I trust their judgment or suggestions of what is good and stony, or tasty and stony, and go with that. If I don’t know the person, I go with what looks good. At the finer Pot Shops, there are jeweler’s magnifying loupes and other somewhat high-tech stuff to help you pick out your Durban Poison.I have a pretty good relationship with the guys at some of the dispensaries around town but I never forget that after I step away from the counter, they say, “Next,” just like at a deli or the DMV. Dispensaries are great but they are a business.
In the old daze, the relation between you and your dealer was very special and personal. There was an unspoken code not to piss the other off. It was your job not to do anything stupid or say anything outlandish on the phone. And in return, the Dealer made you feel like you were their only customer. It was very one-on-one.
It was like we all had to be more human in those days because of the precarious nature of the business. There was a symbiotic balance to the relationship, we both needed each other.
That doesn’t exist anymore.
3) The Big Favor.
Okay, to be fair, I’ve heard that if you have a MM card, most dispensaries in the Bay Area will lay a bud on you if you don’t have the cash that day and don’t do it repeatedly.There were many times, many, many times in my youth when I was either low on funds or through no fault of my own, a paycheck was lost on a Friday and I was broke until Monday.
Kidz, before there was a thing called a “BFF,” there was your Dealer. To quote the Freak Brothers, “Dope will get you through times of no money, better than money will get you through times of no dope.”
So to turn that around, there have been many times in the past 40 years when the need for marijuana was greater than my pocketbook would allow and this is where the word, ‘fronted,’ came from.
The word ‘front’ in the hippie world means to be paid back at some later undisclosed date.
One of the best aspects of having your own dealer, is that a bond of trust is formed, but unlike your banker, car dealer or your attorney, whom you may also have a long business relationship with, your dealer actually trusts you. If you’ve been a good boy and buyer, they will front you for a week, maybe even a month.
And every so often you meet that special Dealer who really never expects you to pay them back. You develop a universal tab that’s so huge, even in making payments you can never hope to pay them back in full. Your Dealer knows that too. But in the Old Daze, that was chalked up to doing business with Hippies.
It’s true; sometimes it wasn’t about money.
4) The Focus.
One of the aspects of having a Dealer that I never realized was the actual time we had together. Even if you saw your Dealer every couple of weeks, or every week, Bro, it was real.
There are neighborhood bars with bartenders that feel like friends because of your frequency to the bar or your tipping habits, but they probably have a lot of friends just like you. There are restaurants where the wait-staff feel like they are long lost relatives. But just like Uncle Ben, they might forget your name, but they act like they know you.With Dealers it was different. Because it was illegal and so much was at stake, both parties had a vested interest in being cool. A good way to develop a strong bond is to have a common enemy and be a part of strong economic subculture.
Certain Dealers became good friends, if not great friends. I go back as much as 30 years with a few Dinosaurs from the Day. That’s called history.
The interaction today is not the same as it was. Hey, I went to Sam’s Best Weed Club today and got some Trainwreck, Romulan, and some very tasty Dragon’s Breath.
That’s it. End of story. Hey, I could also say I got a good deal on some milk today. What could I add? The line was long? Parking was good? Where’s the stories and adventure?
Doesn’t have the teeth of, “Hey dude, I went to see my Man today, and while I was scoring these guys got busted across the street for unpaid traffic fines. Broham, you should have seen our faces when the cops pulled up with the cherries flashing. I thought they were there for us. It was wild!”
5) For Good Or Bad.
Not everyone’s going to understand this but I grew up at a time when there wasn’t any entertainment. True story. Until around 1985, the world was lit by candlelight and you had to make your own fun.
Once the Internet arrived, it became just a matter of buying the right device that will keep your attention from ever lagging again. Before that, only 10 to 15 movies came out a year, you had to rely mostly on comic books and stories old people told. So you were literally forced to watch crappy movies and shitty TV.Believe me, if I had the choice, I don’t think I would have watch “Land of the Lost” or “The Man with Two Heads,” two pieces of complete shite. Now looking back, I could not imagine having not seen those two shlockbusters. See, with lack of choice, you’re forced to make do.
It was the same thing with marijuana for me.
The lack of choice made you tougher in a strange stoner sort of way. In the old daze, your Dealer might only have a half a pound of something that smelled remarkably like wet hay. In those times, it may even have been brown and have seeds. I’m not kidding.
But you would get it because…it was the only game in town. No choice.
It makes you prize the good shit even more. In a way, I feel sorry for the kids who start at the top and will only know down.
6) The Weighing Out.
I don’t know about you, but when it comes time to weigh out the product, I don’t know where to look. It’s not like I’m at the butcher shop or weighing out veggies where it’s okay to be nosey.
I don’t want the Budtender to think I’m giving him the eye like I don’t trust him. But people do make mistakes, right?In the old daze, most Dealers would throw in a few small nuglets at the end for either good customer service or the feeling of let’s not squabble over crumbs.
Having a stay-at-home Dealer, when it came time to pull out the Ol’ Ohaus triple beam for the weighing out the weed, you both were involved. The scale was right there on the coffee table for everyone to see. It was all part of the ceremonial aspect of buying marijuana in the Sixties and Seventies.
Believe it or not, if your bag looked light, your dealer really cared. The home dealer might drop a nug in the bag to fluff it out for no reason except to see a smile on the buyer’s face.
In a dispensary, the Budtender will tell you that the buds are dense and leave it at that.
7) The Weirdness.
Okay, I’m being honest here…Above I spoke about the kind of queasy feeling I get when the stuff gets weighed out. Embarrassing but true, I try not to scrutinize the guy weighing out the product, but my eyes go to the scale to make sure the weight is correct. Not my proudest pronouncement.
Here’s another one: the lengths I have gone to score. I have driven into the deepest unlit sections of many of our fair cities. I have gone to stranger’s home based on a friend of a friend’s okay, to buy an eighth of Mex. I have approached probable heads, musicians and hotel workers on the road.In desperate times I’ve asked record store workers, head shop drones and toothless vendors on Venice Beach or in Central Park where a guy could score in this town. If I was in need of weed, I’d stop anyone who looked like they got high.
I embellish, but this is mostly true.
If you grew up in a time when there were dope famines, or what we called in the Middle West, “the Summer Bummer” — when every August, September, and October before harvest time, it was impossible to get dope until the bales would arrive in December.
In those lean months it was every head for themselves.
I think I even drove to Chicago once.
Am I proud? No. Would I do it again? Yes, unless if I knew there was another way. Back in those days, we didn’t know another way.
You couldn’t make up some of the Weirdness I’ve been through in order to procure that magic herb. Again, not proud, but I do have some stories and other bizarre happenings that could only have come about in the search for that eternal high.
Don’t you have your own Weird Tales?
8) The Buzz.
If you want to know what was happening, your Dealer was in the mix. For some reason, the various Dealers I’ve associated with over the past years, knew the lowdown on the hoedown.Dealers knew the skinny on the busts that went down and who was bringing what into town. Dealers got backstage passes before the rest of us even knew the band was coming to town.
Sometimes you even found out that the local power politician’s kid was buying from your dealer.
Antiestablishment gossip, there’s nothing like it.
Beyond buying the smoke, you felt wired into a community of people who were just like you.
Living part of their lives underground, hiding from the Man because of the common theme of, “Gosh, I like to get high.”
9) The Shared Experience.Having a stay-at-home dealer, you knock on a door, the door opened, and you were asked in, just like a vampire, that’s the only way you’re getting in.
In that small, implicit process, agreements are made without even a word spoken.
From that moment on, everyone agrees to be cool. Not to talk over the phone about product or bring strange people without advance notice.
There is a set of rules and etiquette that have been laid down years ago by the pioneer freaks that learned how to work the Black Market without it working you.
There’s a reason things are the way they are.
10) I Like Being a Criminal.
The greatest day in my life was getting my medical marijuana card. Those first few weeks were golden. I had never experienced anything like it in my life. To do something legal that had been illegal for my whole life, was just short of amazing.
I did day trips and kept records on vintages and strains that I like. I learned the difference between an indica and a sativa, or should I say, the difference of passing out at noon and not.There is something so civil about being able to have the medicine delivered or having it at my disposal within blocks from my house, but the truth is, I do miss being a criminal… a little bit. I miss my dealers.
It never occurred to me that it was ever wrong to always have a dealer in my life. I liked the game. If one quit or I moved, I found another. It wasn’t in my mindset that a dealer couldn’t be found in any major city I’ve lived in.
The idea of quitting marijuana because I couldn’t find someone who dealt weed was unthinkable. But you always had to be cool. You didn’t want to blow it for anyone else. The worst would be to bring the Man in, get the cops involved. So you had to be cool.
I like the Black Market and its dealers. It is made up of our rules. It is shaped by our values. There was something cool about being below the radar. As Bob said, “To live outside the law, you have to be honest.”
Now, while I am so thankful to have safe access to score, I miss the old days. The crazy shit you do to get high. Isn’t that part of it really? Not getting caught?
Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe it’s the same way I over-romanticize old movies. There are these old movies in my collection that I used to really like. Now when I pull out something I thought was really good, I’m surprised how bad it is… like, The Man With Two Heads. But you remembered it as classic.
Maybe it wasn’t so much about the movie itself but what you were doing at the time.
That’s what I miss about going to stay-at-home dealers most. All the other stuff I was doing at the time when I thought the principal objective was to score.
Editor’s note: Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at jackrikess.com.
Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.
His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.
He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.