Where were you when puff, puff, pass became puff, puff … nah, I'm good?
For me, it was a Saturday, March 21, 2020 to be exact. In Seattle, Washington. I was at the last house party I might ever attend, posted on the back patio with a stranger who had an immaculate ponytail. I lit a stogie mcnogie of some homegrown Durban x Tangie, took a few hits, then passed it to the left, only to receive a, “Hmm ... nah, I'm good.”
My world collapsed. The first decree of the Weed Smoker's Constitution has just been amended, and we didn't even vote on it. Shit just happened. Not only was I hurt by the rules of weed being changed, but I was also judging myself for not adjusting to them.
It's not like the changes aren't for good reason. We're in the middle of a global pandemic. As I write this, John Hopkins' COVID-19 dashboard reports nearly 7 million cases in the US and more than 200,000 COVID-19-related deaths. So, it makes sense why people wouldn't want to put their lips on some stranger's spit vessel. We now live in a world where people wear hazmat suits to buy groceries, drive-thrus pass your food on a tray like cops feeding Hannibal Lecter, and coffee shop managers might actually slapbox you for not wearing a face mask. Everyone so badly wants to get back to whatever “normal” used to be — before now. Anytime you violate social distancing rules, it feels like you're resetting the world's countdown by years.
I miss sharing weed. And so do you — I see it in your eyes (plus the fact that you're reading this article). The coronavirus has changed everything in the world, and just because weed is essential doesn't mean we're untouched. Cannabis cafés have gone out of business, those fancy THC-infused dinners in Los Angeles are on hold, and Oregon dispensaries — where you could stick your nose into the jars — have shifted to a wafting model.
You can't even let off a public weed cough without people side-eyeing you like you're patient zero.
Even finding new weed is different. When's the last time someone passed you a jar that made you do two claps and Ric Flair? It's been a minute since you coughed, “Damn, what's that?!” huh? COVID-19 stole that from us. We can't even touch jars, let alone pass along what's inside of them. Not sharing weed takes away from that feeling of discovering a new Pokémon in the wild. Not to mention, it's way cheaper to find new weed through smoking with other people than trying every random strain to figure out the few that you love. Real ones know.
In the era of social distancing, fewer face-to-face interactions means fewer opportunities to have a stoney conversation with someone new. It's not that the art of conversation is dead. You can talk, and to strangers, in person, with a mask and distancing enforced. But with reports that aerosolized COVID-19 particles can remain in the air for up to three hours, the weed conversation game of smoking with a person while y'all chop it up about something weird is in a lockout. No one is standing next to you long or close enough to blow smoke in each other's faces, and if they are, you're both silently wondering if it makes y'all assholes. I mean, kinda.
The dating game is all messed up now too. Not only does the absence of social gatherings force us into the hell of dating apps, you can't even get off the link-and-smoke anymore. Fam, I hate alcohol (and dating apps). I'll drink it socially, but if I never had to meet up with a woman over $12 cocktails just to make small talk about work and asking each other “do you like travelling?”, I would be so okay. But I participate in these social norms because, deep down, I'm hoping that she's radical enough to see this Gelato joint I brought as a better way of connection. That's gone now — my whole bag is gone. Picture Michael Jordan without the left shoulder fadeaway: that's Danté Jordan without the, “You wanna just smoke instead?”
“But what about online smoking sessions?” you might point out. Let me tell you something: Online smoke sessions are trash. I'm sorry, but they are. Think about your latest Zoom call with a big group. What was the experience? It's eight to a dozen people having one conversation. Either no one's talking, because we don't have the social queues of knowing when to, or everyone's talking, because we don't have the social queues of knowing when not to. And the more people added to the sesh, the harder it is to communicate, ultimately turning your chill time into a virtual panic room. Still, with the heightened risks of spreading the virus, sometimes a bad option like a WIFI smoke sesh is a better option than putting others and yourself at risk, or not seshing at all.
So, where do I go from here? Like all people with a passion for weed before me, you learn to adapt.
The first time I tried to smoke with friends post-quarantine was a real eye-opener. It was a parking lot post-up where everyone brought Bluetooth speakers, camp chairs, and flow toys. We'd all gone four months without seeing each other, so everyone hugged it out upon greeting. That body-to-body love was needed in a medicinal way. As ice breakers, we exchanged sarcastic remarks about how extreme the world was acting, but when it came time to spark one, the left arm extension was still met with, “Nah, I'm good.” Instead, everyone smoked solo dolos in our own lil' bubbles. It was a sign that jokes are jokes, but sharing weed is the new character test amongst stoners, and your choice to not adapt speaks volumes.
What are the ethics of sharing weed moving forward? No clue. That really depends on your values when it comes to public health and the culture of weed. In a global pandemic, where almost 1 million total humans have died in relation to a virus that you can spread from just breathing too far, is smoking weed with the homies ever really okay? Again, no clue. Probably not.
I'll come clean in saying that I've been burning with the people closest to me. As the months of worldwide disease, protests, and wildfires have passed, I've started to establish my new normal amidst the chaos, and with that has come a few exceptions. It's like answering the age old question, “If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you bring and why?” I've never had a what, only a who; I'm cool on surviving alone. Nowadays, my four to five friends that I know have been masked up, chilling at the crib, and doing hand sanitizer facials on Self-care Sunday, are the only people I see, let alone smoke with, so we feel alright about it. But long gone are the days where anyone close enough to comment on how good my weed smells could hit the blunt.
I miss the hell out of them.
Featured illustration by David Lozada/Weedmaps