Musings on a long-time codependent relationship.
If you’re like me—everyday red-blooded American cannabis-smoker with minimal interruptions in consumption since the latter decades of the last century—you’ve established a crazy number of relationships over the years with a long and faceless number of independent cannabis retailers, otherwise known as dealers. These relationships were not always one-dimensional in the bad sense of the term. Sometimes, dealers were close friends, relatives, or even lovers. In the time before medical marijuana dispensaries and adult-use retail shops, sometimes the dealer was you.
But usually, the dealer was someone you met through a mutual connection. You saw him or her only when you wanted to score weed. The manner and place of introduction and transaction was irrelevant and as varied as the number of people you meet in your life and the places you’ve lived. New dealers could quickly be procured even as the protocols of procurement stayed the same. No matter where you lived in the country, no matter your status or the crowd you ran with, the traditions of the stoner-dealer interaction became an established part of our shared inheritance, a cultural paradigm, if you will, complete with lexicon, gestures, unspoken forms of communication, and many other, subtler interpersonal signals that remain a part of the cannabis contract to this day.
The dance has long since migrated into the dispensary, where it has found a welcome environment in which time has, for all intents and purposes, stopped. I see the dance in play all the time. It’s subtle, but why not? Without another dance to take its place, the most comfortable form of interaction is the one customer and budtender each intuitively understands. Short of one or the other smashing the protocols to bits in favor of something better, why wouldn’t each party in the transaction find a certain satisfaction from reinforcing a time-honored interaction of rebellion that also results in a sale? What could go wrong?
A lot. The old relationships, like everything else cannabis-related, were shaped by prohibition, by what we were not allowed to do. The illicit consumer marketplace may have been pure in some ways, but it was hardly an equal relationship. The vagaries of supply and demand always gave the dealer an economic and psychological edge on the street. Translating that psychological edge into the traditional retail environment is not really in the best interest of the customer.
That’s why I’ve been thinking that it’s time to break up with my dealers by changing my role in the dealer dance. After all, it takes two to tango. I need to bring my participation in the dispensary experience up a professional notch or two. That doesn’t mean it can’t still be a chill, non-corporate experience. But it might mean I become a little more insistent about certain things, like wanting to know with certitude from where and by what processes the products are produced. Some retailers are already there, and more are hopping on board every day. It just occurred to me that consumers have as big a stake in the proper transition out of prohibition as anyone else, and the only way we can wield the level of influence we have at our disposal is to stop participating in the dealer dance, even if it was nice while it lasted.