Sorry about that headline. It's 4/20, the unofficial national marijuana holiday when America celebrates the happy wonders of weed. It should be cheerier, right? Weed is potent and plentiful. Yay!
But this is Texas, where it's still illegal. Boo! And it will probably remain illegal until the cows come home, start a family, have baby cows, send them off to college and see them start their own families and send home a bunch of grandcalves to bounce on their elderly cow knees.
Assuming cows have knees.
Bitter much, you ask? Why, yes, always. But to even things out, the Observer called Heather Fazio, tireless Texas marijuana reform advocate and optimistic spokeswoman for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, a lobbying group that has built a diverse coalition across party lines to support marijuana reform. It's a serious policy group that doesn't mark the stoners' holiday (hah), but she kindly agreed to give us five reasons for Texans to celebrate this 4/20:
- First and foremost: Over the last several years, public opinion has shifted dramatically. As a result, failing marijuana prohibition laws have been crumbling across the country, and Texas is no exception.
- Legal cannabis is being grown right now in the state of Texas, thanks to the professional and grassroots advocacy work that has been done in recent years.
- Last year, during the 2017 legislative session, more than half the House — 78 members — signed on to a bill that would have made the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive and allow Texans the medical freedom enjoyed by Americans in 29 other states.
- In 2016, the Texas Republican Party formally called on the Legislature to expand medical access to cannabis in our state.
- Texans, regardless of party affiliation, agree that prohibition is a failing policy. We are uniting and working together toward reform as demonstrated by our coalition, Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.
Well, hey, let's get this party started.
Sorry. Bitter. Sorry. Please don't let it kill your 4/20 buzz. There is every reason to believe that legalized weed is inevitable. Just this week in The Atlantic, Reihan Salam wrote, "The marijuana wars are entering a new phase. The first phase, over whether or not to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, is over. The partisans of legalization have won the battle for public opinion."
Sixty-one percent of Texas voters support legalizing recreational marijuana, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released this week. (This is the same place that said the race between Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz is too close to call, so do with that what you will.)
Salam's story is about the potential industrialization of the legal marijuana business and how that might be a bad thing, creating a marijuana industrial complex with enormous political clout and driven by profit to ignore the potential downsides to abundant, cheap and potent weed, whatever they might be. He cites an article by drug-policy researcher Jonathan Caulkins in the National Review — that bunch of potheads — which suggests legalized weed should be "limited to nonprofit production" by either state-owned monopolies, home-growing for personal use, grower co-ops or nonprofit organizations focused on harm reduction. Caulkins also suggests "eschewing advertising."
Basically, Caulkins envisions a communist version of legalized weed. Sounds like those kids at the National Review need to lay off the kush during work hours.
Well, let those East Coast elites say what they will. Here in Texas, we believe in free-market capitalism and advertising. We appreciate the advertising and entrepreneurial spirit that makes America great, and we want to share (cue "God Bless America") the profits of a bountiful harvest among yeoman farmers, small mom-and-pop business owners, corporate investors and companies that sell advertising — not in that particular order.
Plus, we understand the enormous benefits of well-ordered corporate industrialization: better technology, better workplace safety, environmental and product safety regulation, and advertising budgets.
Some of us understand them better than others and can offer another pretty good reason for legalizing weed. Before getting to that, however, a disclaimer:
THE USE OF THE PRONOUN "I" IN THE FOLLOWING SECTION IS A LITERARY DEVICE AND IN NO WAY IMPLIES THE AUTHOR, A WHOLLY UNRELIABLE, MENTALLY DUBIOUS NARRATOR, ACTUALLY DID WHAT HE DESCRIBES. BESIDES, IT WAS A LONG, LONG TIME AGO IN A JURISDICTION FAR, FAR AWAY, IF IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. HE ALSO NO LONGER GROWS, POSSESSES OR USES MARIJUANA. NOTHING HERE SHOULD BE CONSTRUED AS AN ADMISSION OF CRIMINALITY OR PROBABLE CAUSE FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS TO KICK IN HIS DOOR. JUST KNOCK, IF YOU GOTTA, GUYS. YOU WON'T FIND ANYTHING, AND I HAVE INDOOR CATS.
Marijuana is a wonderful plant. Even in its all-natural, unprocessed state, it can alleviate chronic illnesses, ease cancer patients' pain, make for awesome sex and get users high, which is nice. It does not, however, make one smart. I know this because I used to grow my own indoors, and despite all this "not advertised home-growing for personal use" commie stuff being shat out by the National Socialist Review, growing good weed isn't easy, particularly for those who don't have a green thumb.
I, for example, have a plant in my office that a previous tenant left behind. It has not been watered since at least December. It's still alive only because I refuse to water it. If I did, it would probably burst into flames.
Yes, there are all sorts of helpful guides in print and videos online that provide simple, step-by-step directions on how to grow, trim and cure weed or make your own hash, even if one has a black thumb. DIY videos are second only to cat pictures in volume on the internet. You can learn to do anything easily on the internet, from tiling your shower, to frosting a cake, to overhauling a Pratt & Whitney F100 jet engine at home in your spare time.
These are all lies. Only an idiot believes them.
Anyhoo, after watching several online videos and buying about $200 worth of guide books, I decided to grow my own. The first step was finding good seeds from a reputable seed bank. After more online searching, learning how to use email encryption tools and studying applicable laws, I ordered a half-dozen White Widow seeds from Canada, which cost around $20 each, I think, and had them mailed to my house.
No, I'm not that stupid. For implausible deniability, I used my real address but a randomly made-up name. "Why no, officer, there's no one here by that name. Must be the wrong address." Pretty clever, eh? By the oddest coincidence, the name I randomly chose happened to be that of my ex-brother-in-law.
Fine, you're right. That was a dick move, especially since he used to share his weed with me when I was a kid. But he died a few years ago in a pretty sad and gruesome suicide, thus he'll never know I did this. So it's all good.
I also ordered a high-pressure sodium lamp and bulb for growing and an electrical timer for controlling the light. I set it all up with my potting-soil-filled pots in a closet, dropped in the seeds and turned on the light. The temperature in the closet immediately rose to about 200 degrees.
This is getting long, and we haven't gotten to the really
stupid interesting OK stupid part yet. Let's fast-forward: dead seedlings, infertile seeds. Another order by my ex-brother-in-law. Killing male plants that sprouted (a statistically anomalous 70 percent). Learning all about bound roots, soil compaction, gnats and mites. Several days of reading and Googling and about three dozen trips to Lowe's later, I had three fine, blooming, somewhat cooked female White Widow plants producing some pretty potent buds in a homemade hydroponic "bubbler" setup (instructions available online).
Total investment in money and time? Roughly $17,000, I imagine. On the other hand, minus the crop I lost to mold during curing — oh, the humanity — I got a few ounces of weed out of it. We're talking super-primo stuff, then, based on price.
In my defense, I'm not, I think, an exceptionally stupid person or reefer mad. I'm just a guy with a lot of natural curiosity who likes to build stuff. I'm also terrible at building stuff. I can't wrap a package, but I tried to wallpaper a kitchen. Not pretty. I've replaced the brake master cylinder on a Chevette. (What do you mean "pedal to the metal" doesn't apply to brakes?) Potato cannon? Natch. I've even built radio-controlled airplanes, including one that "flew" at around 120 mph ... just after the wing fell off and seconds before it buried itself 8 inches deep in solid clay soil. I'm game to try anything. Have a Pratt & Whitney F100 jet engine in need of overhauling? Hand me the Spackle and step out of the way, bub.
And I had possession of a large sack of unsmokeable, THC-laden trimmings. What to do? This is where the really stupid, as opposed to merely stupid, part comes in, and it explains why Jonathan Caulkins is wrong.
I decided to make hash oil using what the internet benignly calls the "butane extraction method."
I won't go into great detail since that would be irresponsible, but you can look up how to do this online if you're
stupid brave OK stupid. It involves going to Lowe's and buying a section of threaded 2-inch steel pipe (technically, a stanchion), a pair of threaded end-caps and a couple of big cans of butane. Drill some holes in caps, powder the dried trim in a blender, put powder in pipe.
GO THE FUCK OUTSIDE! Seal pipe, fill pipe with butane and let it and dissolved hash oil drain into a bowl sitting in a pan of warm water. The butane boils away into the atmosphere and voila! If you're not dead, you have some of the nastiest hash oil ever to foul the planet.
Those of you with military experience, in certain areas of law enforcement or anyone with more intelligence than a Hormel canned ham will recognize that what I'm describing is essentially a pipe bomb. For the rest, let me draw you a picture:
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For the record, my hash oil did get me very stoned, though that may have been the result of carbon monoxide poisoning from inhaling all the burned, dissolved butane left behind in the oil.
The point of all this, if there is one, is A) I still have my life, eyes, hands and testicles. So let's celebrate 4/20 because one
productive citizen newspaperman OK dude looked natural selection square in the face and survived and B) marijuana may one day be legalized, preferably for production by safe, responsible businesses with large advertising budgets that provide many benefits, such as saving wear and tear on the nation's ambulance fleet.