Promises, promises, and then success! How long have you been waiting for good news, of any size? Friday, October 24, 2014 at 11am, marijuana was finally for sale on Whidbey – legally, that is. Grand implications reverberate around the globe. Great debates amongst the community. Simple changes in individual lives. Marijuana is legal? I think I’ll have a drink.
If you want some fascinating history written by heavily filtered interests, try tracking down how a plant native to America and grown by Americans for centuries joined harsh drugs like heroin in our modern Prohibition. My favorite anecdote is about how President Nixon wanted to classify marijuana so strictly because it gave law enforcement officials an easy reason to round up protesting radicals. If true, loose threads from the fight against anti-war protests in the Sixties and Seventies are only now being tied up. From such motivations policies, politics, and people are affected for generations.
Washington State legalized recreational marijuana almost two years ago. We celebrated that, mostly with cheers and alcohol. Marijuana was legal, but we couldn’t buy, sell, grow, or gift it. Rather limiting. It took a year and a half before pot shops finally opened. Washington is a regulatory state. Many forms must be filled out and filed. Finally, July 2014, the first pot shops opened. They were rare. Only one in the city of Seattle. A few in Bellingham, which provides another reason I like B’ham. And Whidbey, Whidbey Island Cannabis opened its doors, and I was there – to see an empty counter and employees who shrugged their shoulders at the lack of product. The shops were open! But the supply chain had many links that were kinked.
Whidbey has to do things differently, even when it isn’t trying. Our shop was held up by permits. Evidently, there were more to fill and file. Oops. Please pardon the delay, eh?
It has been entertaining, from the outside. I’d swing past if I was in the neighborhood, which is necessarily far removed from “urban” Whidbey. Little suggestions of progress were movement in the sign-up clipboard left on the front steps, a yellow permit sign posted on a standing frame beside the building, lights on as something got done. I wondered if the restaurant next door thought I was stalking the place. Finally, the announcement. Opening, re-opening, was scheduled for October 24. Last time, the first people in line were the people showing up to see if there was a line. Buying was secondary, including for me.
I got there early because I wanted to see if there was a line; but also because I had a question for the local building supply business. I’m a busy guy, and almost every trip has more than one purpose. As I came back past the door to Whidbey Island Cannabis, I noticed it was open. They’d been doing something outside earlier, but I hadn’t bothered them. Maybe they were open early? Nope. Besides, they had one last inspection and inspector due any moment.
Evidently everything went alright because they opened on time. And, who was in line? Me and the local reporter. Then two more folks showed up. My name was on the list since July, but it didn’t look like a rush; so, the reporter and I chatted before going in. Just being mellow.
The main event, waiting in line and stepping up to the counter, not a big deal. It was confusing though, because marijuana sales have lots of new rules and regulations. The employees must be trained, and so must the customers. No touching the product. Buds are available by the ounce. Edibles are behind the counter. Paraphernalia are in the display case. And descriptions that are advertising pitches. Just like with tea, there are many varieties of leaf, product, and application. It is good that they were helpful.
Rather than try to master the process I stayed to what I wanted. I like to cook. To me, marijuana is a plant. I eat plants. I suspect you do too. Why buy something in small quantities and then burn it? It sounds inefficient. Besides, I’m not interested in getting wasted. Not even back in college did that seem like a good idea. Some plants taste good just as they were harvested: apples, corn, berries. Others work well when something draws out the flavors. Three ways to pull out flavors are in water, fat, and alcohol.
Allow me to describe my upcoming culinary experiments. (Got recipes?)
- Water: Tea is an easy choice. Evidently, cannabis and water are a weak reaction so I don’t expect much potency, which can be a good thing but inefficient use of a pricey product. It might be a nice way to start, though; because, today’s weed is evidently very strong, and tea leaves can be reused. The only losses are in the aroma.
- Fat: Butter or oil should work. Eggs should too. I haven’t decided yet, but I do recall college days with omelets, cakes, and such. Supposedly a more efficient solvent than water, but diffused throughout the food. Simplest and most ironic recipe is buttered popcorn. Gotta start somewhere, and why not make marijuana part of the munchies?
- Alcohol: A touchy combination, supposedly very efficient as well, but I’m going to check online recipes before I go there. Mixing strong culinary chemicals is something to embark upon with respect. Go ask the first human who bit into the wrong pepper or mushroom. Combine them right, and taste buds are happy. Mix them wrong and go write spiritual fiction.
Being on the front page of the local paper created a few electronic messages from concerned friends. Images of partying, and wild abandon may have scared them; even though I am known for not drinking and driving – to the obvious and vocal disapproval of some restauranteurs. Partaking at home is my preference. You see, I’m not interested in the parties. I’m interested in the zero calorie equivalent of the glass of white wine at the end of the day. Though, it will be interesting to see if the munchies counter that. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know how my life has been lately. A non-alcoholic non-caloric possibility for relaxation, ah to dream of it. And maybe now I have it. You see, evidently one thing it is good for is as a sleep aid. Imagine my relief.
My simple wants and needs are secondary to the public debate. Decades of indoctrination in ideological diatribes mean very few are basing their opinions on data. The medical and chemical risks of marijuana seem to be far more benign than that of alcohol, tobacco, and potato chips. The benefits are significant enough that some of the customers who showed up in July were only there for pain relief. To see them turned away was painful.
The larger debates will continue. Public opinion was swayed enough to allow the legalization in two states, and soon in others. The larger costs of enforcement and the creation of a lucrative black market are lessons we learned in our first Prohibition, and are learning again. We Americans learn slowly, but we learn.
The larger debates are larger than America. Legalization is undercutting black market demand, even at the early elevated prices. (I bought one 1 gram bud for $30. I think that much would’ve bought an entire baggie back in college.) Foreign policy is shifting. Legalizing marijuana means drug cartels are losing major markets and revenues, fewer Americans will be locked up, police forces can concentrate on more serious crimes, and governments can make more money.
I’m just looking for a way to unwind and get some rest. Legalizing a native plant changes the world, fine. In the meantime, until I know how to handle this new member of my pantry, I’ll continue sipping that other prohibited food product that I’ve tested and experimented with: a bit of distilled potato with a few spices and a few ice cubes.