The underground language of weed smoking is disappearing. We no longer speak in clever code, with trees, green, cheese, and purple meaning all the same thing — cannabis. In fact cannabis was never used to describe this plant, unless you wanted to sound like a narc, it was always called weed or marijuana, which were ironically were terms narcs gave to us in negative propaganda. “You trying to smoke?” was a question that never meant cigarettes, and skins was what you wrapped weed in. A piece is not something that fits into a puzzle, it is the glass pipe you smoke out of. Riding dirty was something that I once did daily, having no other place to smoke besides a car, rolling through the neighborhood, hoping that I wouldn’t be spotted by a cop. An L is something that you roll up, and a bleezy is a work of art, while a J is called a marijuana cigarette by those who don’t smoke. Spliffs are my choice for a bad habit, which a joint with tobacco in it, being born out of my first taste for blunt wraps. A backwood is something that takes talent to roll, and a cross joint is something that only the best will attempt, but is more for show than smoking. A sleeper strain will do what it says, and an orange hairy nug will go straight to your head, making you think you are more creative and intelligent. Purp is what I was raised on, with dark leaves characterizing the best weed the Bay had to offer, guaranteed to relax your body and mind into any couch you are sitting on. Chiefing is smoking, and inhaling is not used for meditative breathing, coughing is expected when you are new to this. Hit-it-two-times-and-pass is the catchphrase of smoking etiquette, making sure to never camp out on your turn, taking too long to puff, puff, pass it around the circle. It always goes to the left, and once you’ve joined a circle there is no leaving it until all the weed is gone. To cop is to pick-up, and to chill is to smoke with friends, when you have five on it you’ve contributed your share. A mookie is a dirty bowl with tobacco, and a dab was what they smoke in Europe, otherwise known as hash in cigarettes. Dank is a good thing, stinky and sticky are the characteristics of fire weed, while kush is used liberally. Heatish was a term that rappers made up, to describe weed, hash, and kief all rolled into the same blunt. Haze is a plant strain and also what is produced from smoking all day, while chronic describes only the best weed, not an ailment that is persistent. Flower is a plant, but not the kind that you cut for a bouquet, instead it is bought in sacks, zips, halfs, or eighths. A dime bag is a enough to smoke right away, getting the heat out of your pocket and into thin air safely. A safety meeting has nothing to do with safety, and a session is not for counseling, but both traditionally happen around 4:20. A blunt, a bong, and a blitz are all different smoking methods, while a chillum or sneak-a-toke holds a bowl just large enough for one. Mary Jane and reefer are nicknames from the old days, with ganja being the racist way to say it. A nug is not made of gold, although paper is exchanged for it, with a discreet handshake to pass it over. You never knock on a stoner’s door, unless you are the Five-O, the ones who will arrest you for possession, or an intent to deal, depending on how much weight you are carrying. Herb is something that can be put in your baking, and may look like oregano, but it will have a different side effect than flavor. Cottonmouth is not caused by oral surgery, and shotgunning is the passing of smoke through kissing. A sploof will help cover up the scent, and a damp towel under the door is another common technique. Bud is your friend, but not human, and cheeba is the same thing. Resin is sticky and requires cleaning, and sticks, stems, and seeds are something that should be removed in trimming. Stoner time is at least thirty minutes behind, mostly because we are always fried. A doobie is placed in an ashtray, and a cheap bastard will pick them up and roach them to the end. Pot is the best known term, with pothead being a side effect of daily smoking. Devil’s lettuce, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, and spinach, are not the makings of a salad. But with legalization we need none of these terms, we can just say cannabis, the proper name for a plant with medicinal benefits.
I now handle at least twenty pounds of cannabis a day, and that is just the flower weight. I remember the first time I saw a turkey bag of weed, being picked up by my brother on a road trip back to school. He was stocking up for this semester’s tuition, with weed dealing making ten times more than dish washing in the university kitchen. He held a misdemeanor that did not allow him to get hired elsewhere, pushing him back towards the line of work that got him there, selling weed to his fellow students, barely able to live off of it after paying out of state tuition. He had no financial back up plan, and this was the best method of employment he had living in a hippie town. With our mother being broke after the passing of our father, and us still being expected to carry on with pursuing higher education, we were left to get creative with how we earned paper. He had a connection through his girlfriend, to a woman she worked Girl Scout Camp with, where he could pick up a QP for a half grand, we just had to make a pitstop in Portland. We arrived around five AM, after driving over night from California in a rental van, just me, my two brothers, with blunts in hand. There was a process to this that I was unfamiliar with, the text before arrival, not knocking on the door, never saying in simple terms what we were there for. A woman who was smaller than I expected answered the door, wearing dreads and a suspicious look, she still allowed us to enter without introductions. There were more of us than she expected, and that put her on edge, until we explained that we were all related. There is trust in family when it comes to weed, and my brothers were there to lead me. I sat on the couch silently, while my brother spoke in code to confirm what she was dealing, leaving the room and coming back with a bigger bag of weed than I had ever seen. She weighed it out in front of him, to confirm that he was getting the amount he wanted, on a scale that I’ve only ever seen used for weighing produce. Money was exchanged discreetly, despite being enclosed by the walls of her living room, since this deal could get them both five to ten years in prison. We smoked a customary bowl before asking where to get food and watch soccer, the World Cup was on. She recommended a bar down the street that opened early, so we loaded the weed into the floor of our rental van, parked it around the corner and then continued on exploring. It almost seemed normal, making a pitstop in in Portland to buy an excessive amount of cannabis, casually stashing it, and continuing our drive to Washington. I almost didn’t think anything of it, until this moment, when I am legally handling pounds of cannabis, when I am able to do this in the open, when it counts as a legitimate business transaction. I am now the dealer receiving turkey bags of weed, I am now the one using a produce scale to weigh out pounds of green, but it is without the risk of being sentenced to prison, without the discreet back door operations, without a roadtrip to make a living.
The environment is toxic, filled with tension, and unproductive. It is the worst office I’ve ever worked in. It is dirty constantly, always covered in weed, cluttered and messy. None of the windows open, even if my coworkers thought to look out of them, too focused on the computers and tasks at hand. There are no plants anywhere, despite being in the business of selling them, there is no sign of anyone in our office having a green thumb. There is a tone about it that is stressful, always on edge, almost vengeful. I thought that this job would be chill, filled with stoners and meaningful connections. But once I stepped into this office the air was sucked out of me, I began to grind my teeth constantly, I began losing even more sleep. There is a constant tone of stress, unrest, and a disgruntled temperament. My manager is nowhere to be found, my coworkers are constantly talking shit, and I am stuck in the middle of it, being the newest member of a team that does not work together, a team that seems to be pitted against each other, with everyone fighting to be recognized as the next potential manager. It is a competitive environment with none of the players offering real skills, none of us striving to improve the work experience, none of what we do seems to make any difference. The room is still tense, the tasks are still piling up untouched, the managers are still fighting for something that is irrelevant to us. I already want to move on, and I’ve only been there a month, being fed up with the unnecessary stress of it. We sell weed for a living, and most of us get stoned on our lunch breaks, there should not be this much unnecessary stress. But this is the nature of a startup, this is what happens when you ask untrained and unqualified managers to step up, this is what happens when there is no professional guidance. I am fed up and addicted to this kind of bullshit, this haphazard work environment, this kind of mess that I get to help clean up. I appreciate having an influence, working to achieve what others said could not be done, working in an industry that is still underground and growing. This is just the pain of transition, a signs of changing, an opportunity for me.
I cannot admit my profession to everyone, there are those who will not take it well, those who will still call me a drug dealer, those who are afraid of the consequences of legalization. There are people who will not see me the same, as soon as they hear cannabis they will start judging what I do to earn a living, they will not accept me as a moral human. Legalization does not matter to them in the end, they are too caught up in their own judgement, claiming that it is a gateway drug, that I am working to get kids hooked on other substances. The irony in it is that CBD has helped lessen my dependence on other things, it has aided with the calming my anxiety, it can help heal instead of lead to further addiction. The irony is layered on thick when they accuse me of getting into the business for the smoking, in order to get discounts on weed, when in reality it is one of the positions where I have been paid the least, where I am struggling to sustain my habit, when I realized that I need to cut back. I am judged for pushing substances, when I once felt more guilty pushing luxury hotel rooms, charging people for things I know they don’t need, pushing them into a lifestyle that is above their means. I felt more guilt in hospitality, when I was taking advantage of people’s expectations, paid to read their emotions, expected to know their habits better than they know themselves. I felt more dirty when I was selling nicotine, online to people hoping to quit smoking, searching desperately for their next addiction. I felt more self conscious when I was new to this, when I still thought that I couldn’t gain legitimate work experience in cannabis, when I thought that it was run my stoners instead of businessmen. I didn’t know the projections, the excessive profit margins, the potential for continued growth. I hadn’t considered them as a local business, or this as an American born industry, something that could spread nationally, working to recovery our struggling economy. I never considered the tax benefits, the funds earned for our local state government, and the associated regulations. I hadn’t stop to think about the ancillary industries, the development of software and Point of Sales Systems, the potential for creative marketing. I didn’t see the potential, and no one else will, until experienced professionals make the decision to join industry, to know that it was worth the risk of professional suicide and social sequestration.
He was the first person I smoked weed with. It wasn’t that I had a lack of opportunity, it was that I wanted to smoke for the first time with someone who really knew me, who could tell if it had weird side effects, who see if I was feeling overwhelmed. My boyfriend at the time smoked weed, so I was able to follow through on our sibling agreement, that we each had to find weed on our own and then we could smoke together, since we did not want to be the initial bad influence on each other. I hit him up and he made the arrangements, picking up an eighth for the evening, despite me only needing a few hits to make me feel something. I was expecting so much more, to have my mind altered and my body numbed, to feel like I was overtaken. But the blunt had me questioning if it was working. He showed me how to break it down and roll it up, and the rules for smoking in a circle, hit it two times and pass to the left, make sure to not leave spit on the tip, and to ash before passing it. He taught me how to inhale, and how to hold it in, fighting off the urge for violent coughing. I was still a varsity athlete, someone who pledged that I would never smoke weed, the epitome of health and straight laced intelligence. I used to look down on those who chose to ruin their future with drugs, who thought the high was worth it, but I had now decided to join them. I was eighteen and had been drinking for years, but I wanted a new release. I was scared to some extent, nervous about the side effects. I thought I would almost lose consciousness, that I would no longer think straight, that I would be debilitated. I anticipated a psychedelic trip, to feel something more overwhelming, but by the end of the blunt I claimed to feel nothing, it did not feel like it was working. My brother asked me why I thought that, laughing to himself as he did, knowing that I was already feeling the side effects. I explained that I just felt hungry and sleepy, but nothing extreme, I thought this substance was supposed to be mind altering. I was waiting for the tripping, to see colors and images of things that did not exist, to be so high that I couldn’t function, but instead I was just giggling. He giggled with me, knowing that this is what smoking weed felt like, laughing at the assumptions I had in my mind about getting high.
She is a scary reflection of who I could become if I detached myself from the pace of reality. She seems to resist change, and consumes cannabis regularly, having a tolerance built up to excessivity, that only allows her to get high with the most concentrated forms of THC. She wears clothes she has owned since the 90’s, and seems to be plagued with ailments constantly, being so skinny that she might disappear with one more stomach flu, despite eating an excessive amount of food. We share similar traits, of stubborness, intelligence, and anger mismanagement, and she has established a reputation of scaring everyone in the office. She gets her job done, and knows more than most of us about this industry, because she has survived in it since the beginning, she was there helping build this company. But she holds that experience against everyone else, cursing us for not knowing what she has learned over the years, calling us idiots for making innocent mistakes, she goes into fits of rage, infecting everyone within ear range with her unproductive ranting. It echoes memories of me in management, when I was so stressed out that I called my best friend an idiot, when I took my work experience for granted, when I expected more out of everyone in my immediate surrounding. But now I see that I was making it more difficult for me, I was the one who was infecting productivity, I was the coworker who everyone found to be scary. She is loud, but I was louder. She lacks sympathy, but I was even less understanding. She holds knowledge as job security, while I held proprietary knowledge selfishly. We are capable of many great things, but there is something within us that is working against this, something that drove us to end up in this new industry, something that made us start from the beginning. We are older than most of our coworkers, by at least a decade or two, and it is obvious that we resent their youth. We expect more out of everyone, but when we are having a bad day there is nothing that can help, no ounce of understanding is felt. I was warned about her multiple times, by coworkers and managers who said to keep my head down, to not trust her with any knowledge she could use against me. She is said to work against the team, with the knowledge and ability to frame her mistakes as someone else’s making. She is said to hate everyone, especially anyone who runs a vacuum around her, or anyone else who disrupts her unusual work environment. She shares too much, going on for thirty minutes about her weekend, when it is clear that no one is listening. She is a cat person, limiting her interactions with humans, giving her more reason to be attached to no one. She has a man friend, making me search for evidence of her attractiveness, wondering what I am missing. Maybe she is just a bitch at work, or maybe I was over concerned, because she seems to get along with me, and I have yet to be victim to her ranting. I am prepared for the day when she will turn on me, I will be ready for the attack, because I know how to fight back.
He has been a father for as long as I have known him as an adult, and for longer than I have known him as a loving brother, but not as long as he has been smoking flower. He grew up in the generation where you cannot address cannabis by its proper name, instead you had to relate it to more metaphorical code names, like trees, cheese, or that sticky green, to confuse those who may be listening in in your surroundings. He was the first one to teach me about blunts and the proper way to roll them, while we posted up in his bedroom, hiding our habit from his children. We had a routine for when I would come and visit, say hello to the kids, hide the stash in the bedroom, and one of us would entertain them while the other one was rolling. We would then leave for a walk, telling my niece and nephew that they cannot tag along, promising that we are not going to the park without them and that we would not be gone for long. But I have no idea how much time passed while we smoked blunt after blunt around the block, creating a cloud of smoke wherever we walked, being an easy target for the children to spot. They were bound to figure it out, that their father and aunt get together to get high, that we return smelling sweet yet skunk like. I don’t know how he expected to hide it after so many years of being a stoner who relies on weed’s release, on it to allow some stress relief from being a father at eighteen, after smoking every day, constantly. We did our best to hide our habits, to deny our bonding moments, to cover up the time we spent talking about everything. We felt guilty when returning from smoking, as if the children could see that our minds were altered slightly. We would deny the time we spent together as siblings bonding, covering up our impromptu meetings, trips together to the dispensary, and midnight Walmart runs for munchies. We would lie about spending any time together, covering our bad habit in front of the children, denying that it brought us together to spend time with family. They were there for our drinking, the whiskey shared on Christmas Eve, and the wine ever flowing on Thanksgiving, but they never witnessed the time we spent talking endlessly, the conversations that the blunts encouraged us to dive into deeply, the way that we would stop fighting simultaneously with the blunt sparking. They will never understand the bond we created over cannabis, the way that it encouraged forgiveness, the secret bond of sharing this dirty habit. Being a dad was one of the best things that could have ever happened to him, with smoking cannabis being a close second, since they both brought him back to family, they both made him a little less angry, they helped make him the older brother I was always hoped he would be.
He admitted to hating his role in management, claiming he is not good with directing people and no good at holding them responsible. He allowed this situation to snowball out of control, for too many people to voice their opinions, for too many petty conversations to carry on unheeded. He could hear everything, the whole room was talking about him, being separated by a thin sliding door with no sound protection. I sympathized with him, placing me on the side of my boss’s perceived enemy, while still entertaining the claims against his work personality. He is said to be out for the kill, to move up the corporate ladder no matter what, to be focused on what he can get out of it. He is said to be aiming to take control, to ignore the ideas of those who trained him before, to make a name for himself and remain unthankful to those who once provided him support. He is said to be unqualified, to have only received this position because my boss was distracted by having a child, that he was not the first pick in this competitive environment. But I can see that he is trying, once he emerged from hiding he admitted to knowing that he still has room for learning, and that this was never what he thought he would be doing. He was just another stoner who was considered lucky to get into the cannabis industry early, when it was just used for medical reasons, before it expanded to recreational legalization. He was just another unqualified employee who put in the time before it seemed worth it, before people were moving across country to join him, before cannabis required legitimate work experience. He was another young professional unprepared for this promotion, unqualified for this level of work, still learning the skills it takes to be a successful manager. He was thrown in and told to sink or swim, with no structure of expectations, and no training on how to manage appropriately. What he does not know is that this is the case in any industry, that cannabis is not the only work environment that is lacking training, that his position requires skill sets that are common across every work place. Selling weed is no different than hospitality, and managing inventory is the same in every consumer industry. Customer service always has the same basics, and marketing is just a form of customer conversation. If he had previous work experience, he would realize this, but this industry is saturated with unintentional ignorance. Those with industry experience were operating under the table, and those with management experience are afraid to put cannabis on their resume. So this industry is left to grow on the shoulders of managers like him, those who feel like they have no idea what they are doing, those who do not have the experience of thinking problems through, those who do not have a toolbox of solutions. It is still working, these managers are still learning, but one day they will be replaced by experienced managers like me.
He was the bane of our existence at one point, the rust in the gear that made the wheel squeak even more. He got into cannabis for the science of it, to study the growing climates, the soil requirements, and the processing of this medicinal plant. He was not here for the customer service, and that became quite obvious. He could not seem to get down the routine of an inventory audit and would stare at you with a blank face when you asked him where he left off. He would ignore customers when they walked in, continuing to focus on the task he currently had in his hands, not knowing how to juggle between them. He was young and this was obviously his first work position, since he obviously had no sense of self-direction. I almost pitied him, but could tell that he had an education and the financial advantage to do something with it. He drove a Range Rover that he dabbed constantly in, feeling protected by his pale skin, breaking the law and showing up too high to function again. I tried to work with him, to cater to his learning styles and sense of organization, but he was not here for learning. He was here to make a name for his weed, to network in the industry, to impress other people with his cannabis growing abilities. He was so young and naive, with no experience in other industries, no marketable skills backing up his far fetched dream. He was going about it all wrong, but he had no idea that he was so far off. He eventually provided relief to the team by quitting, abandoning the position that was obviously not made for him. He gave us two days notice and showed up an hour late for his last shift, driving home the point that he did not give a shit about this position. He had another job that would pay him and he was confident that his future product would speak well for him, but he is proving to be just another ill prepared stoner, hoping that his weed will sell itself. This is no longer an underground market, it is a legitimate source of taxed profit, it requires more than just word of mouth marketing. It is saturated by professionals who have grown for years and so much weed that the customer demand cannot keep up with the yield. It is hopeless to think that a young, inexperienced retail clerk dropout could make a name for himself, but it is a young enough industry to still give unrealistic dreamers hope. Their time has passed though, he needed to be in the industry years ago, when it was still illegal to grow, before he was ever even born.
He recently decided to stop smoking, everything, a drastic move in this emerging cannabis industry. But he has a second child on the way and even more bills to pay, leading him to the decision he made yesterday. He was a dab head, addicted to the routine with a developed high tolerance that is financially troubling. These were some of the first words he said to me as my new boss, making me question who I was working with, despite previously being in his situation in a different industry of intoxicants. I quit drinking while working in Napa Valley, wine country, making my coworkers question my dedication to the lifestyle of hospitality. I followed through for legitimate personal reasons, but they still found ways to judge me for not partaking in the required drinking. How was I supposed to sell a winery experience when I hadn’t had a sip of wine in weeks and planned to never return to the previous alcohol tolerance that I once reached? How was I supposed to continue working when I was impaired by sobriety? How could I be considered a professional when I couldn’t partake in what I was selling? Would my clients continue to respect me? Or will they work with someone who doesn’t make them feel indirectly guilty for drinking? I felt the same judgement I once resented wash over me, questioning my new boss’s authority based on his choice of cold turkey sobriety. It was unfair of me but I couldn’t help but think, how will he know anything about the product we are selling? Shouldn’t smoking be a requirement? Or at least the ability to try it? How can we put on paper that intoxication and dependance is required? Aren’t these traits of employees who should be fired? Shouldn’t we encourage sobriety in an emerging industry to legitimize the business we are building? Shouldn’t we fire anyone who is caught smoking on or near property? Shouldn’t we follow the law carefully? We seem to have made an exception for on shift intoxication, reversing the expectations. We seem to glorify a lack of motivation, enabling dependence on habitual intoxication. This is what should gain a lack of respect, this is what we should be working against. We should be legitimizing our work with a clean image, disproving the stoner stereotypes, proving that we are intelligent. We should be working even harder to stay clean, embracing sobriety, proving that we are working for more than just free weed. I should be applauding my boss’s decision and rising up to join him, but that is not what will help others gain confidence in me. It will just make me another black sheep in this industry.