Monday, July 11, 2005
The Weed Museum
Before I started my t-shirt business as a junior in college, I witnessed first hand the operation of the most time honored category of college dorm small business, the weed dealership.
You see, I had an enterprising friend on my floor, let’s call him Bert. Along with just about everyone else in the fall of ’76 in the giant “Southwest” high-rise dorm complex at UMass, Bert was a weed connoisseur. None of us on the second floor of JFK, a 22 story behemoth, had a lot of extra money. Thus it was that Bert started by buying quarter pounds of herb, simply that he might get a free ounce out of the deal. Having the heart (or lack there of) of an accountant, Bert quickly turned his pot dealing into a thriving business, where he was able to bank $900.00 bucks a semester—above what he used for spending money! He was organized, efficient, fair, and consequently had very good word of mouth, especially among a group of well heeled chemical engineering majors on the ninth floor.
I should stop here to fill out the picture a bit. Marijuana was a different commodity back in the day, in the wilds of western Massachusetts. We never even saw green bud until the spring of ’76. The standard format of the day was the bag of brown “Columbian” pot for forty bucks an ounce. It was always a festive occasion when a fresh pound arrived. Out came the scales, and we all pitched in, bagging up ounces while sampling the wares, playing everything from the Who, Roxy Music, and the Dead, to the guitar strains of Pop Diety Peter Frampton (Punk was still just around the corner). It paid to have friends in high places!
On rare occasions, you would get stonier, stinkier “gold”, or “red” pot, which was highly prized. When we first saw green bud, labeled “sinsimilla”, in the spring of ’76, it came in at $45.00 an ounce, and we all laughed. “I’m not gonna pay forty five bucks for homegrown!” Then we tried it. We paid.
As the year wore on and Bert moved an amazing quantity of high quality weed, he felt compelled to start his Weed Museum. This was comprised of a plastic fishing tackle box, and some pill vials he had stolen from a summer job he had in a local pharmacy. A sample of each type of bud was duly saved and labeled in the Weed Museum. Bert held onto this amazing relic of deals past for a few years, then finally smoked it all up. When I asked him why, he simply said, “It was getting stale—had to.” Couldn’t argue with that.
My best memory of the museum was smoking this unbelievable doob from it, culled from gold, red, brown and green buds. A pinch of everything. Worked fine! An active buzz, so to speak. Sad to say, I wasn't on hand later when my pal decided to burn his was through this ultimate stash.
Although Bert was a fine business man, he ultimately made an error that cast him out of the trade. Well, he was perhaps ready to resign anyhow, cut his risk factor as it were. But in the spring of ’76, Bert’s supplier gained access to a large quantity of low rent Mexican pot, packed in bricks, that could be had for a song. Our enterprising pal picked up several pounds, which he sold to a kid from his hometown. As Bert and I were from the same burg, it was my hometown too. I remember sitting around the dinner table with my mom and day, who announced, “There’s been a real problem at the High School lately. Big influx of marijuana!”. No kidding???
While it was indeed a move of dubious moral integrity to move several pounds of dope into a high school environment (even in the hedonistic Seventies), my dealer friend's critical error grew out of a grand plot conceived in a fit of hubris.
Bert’s high school connection was moving so much of this cheap, ratty Mexican reefer, that Bert felt confident. Time to expand! He put in an order for thirty five pounds of this sore throat inducing stuff, when his home town connection went silent. I think he got popped, or got cold feet, frankly it’s so long ago I just don’t remember what became of him. And then, Bert made his big mistake. He didn’t pay his supplier. Needless to say, these people were not impressed. I can't remember how much Bert owed at this point. Suffice to say, it was a lot.
Next semester, Bert took some time off from his studies to work, to decide what to major in, and of course to hide from his supplier. I was still on campus, and his suppliers couldn’t find the guy. They called me a few times, trying to sound tough. But the fact was, they too were just kids, undergraduates like us, just a year or two older. The suppliers knew that I was Bert’s friend, but in fact had no actual connection to his business dealings. So, they eventually faded away, gave up, what ever.
In retrospect, I think Bert made a big mistake. He burned his supplier. Never a good thing, but particularly risky in an illegal business! Truth be told, it is the type of thing a nineteen year old does, because they are green, arrogant and just plain dumb. It could be the type of incident that would make one a more responsible person later on. Or not. I'm too embarrassed to run down all really stupid stuff I did at that age, which is why I'm picking on "Bert"!
Finally, a word on marijuana. I love smoking pot. Yes, it is illegal. I can’t think of anything sillier or more counterproductive than making pot illegal. It reminds me of the William S. Burroughs bit, “Control is controlled by the need to control”. Indeed. I know reefer can be bad for you. It can give you a sore throat and make you an unproductive, paranoid dud if you smoke too much of it.
But used in moderation, it can open your intellect up to the non-linear gestalt of your own mental processes. The first twenty minutes of the buzz are good for inspiration, but be damn sure you write it down! Quick!
Marijuana can make you giggle and laugh. This is good for you! It can make you appreciate the absurdity of hierarchy, and see the surreal in everything from a donut to toothpaste. It can make your genitals hum and want to do something fun.
It can also make you not care about getting back to work by exactly one o’clock on the dot, it’s anti-hierarchical effects have a lot to do with why COP BRAIN doesn’t like it. It does not destroy your self esteem like alcohol does, thus it is not a good tool for the authorities to endorse. Yup, alcohol is perfect for keeping the workers in line, makes them skulky and contrite, and eager to please.
If you get the idea that I am an advocate of social (as well as medicinal) use of Marijuana, BINGO! Go to the head of the class! Let’s make it legal, tax it, regulate it, stop wasting money incarcerating people over it. It may be the ultimate tool for putting our public financing back on it’s feet, by the grace of the good will of this amazing plant for the people of the planet. Make no mistake, marijuana is indeed a friend and ally of the human race, and it is about time we acknowledge it as such.