The inflation of inhalation
By Johnny Mumbles
Word up, 2 for $5 over here, baby!
- Cash Rules Everything Around Me, Wu Tang Clan, 1993
I will never forget the first time I bought kind bud. My friends and I had smoked bush weed, but the real heady pot was a fantasy only found on the pages of marijuana magazines. It was the 90s. We only knew it as KB or kind bud, the idea of different strains still in a stratosphere above our comprehension. An upperclassman acted like he was doing us a favour by charging us double for the skimpiest bag of weed I’ll ever buy. We met him at the park for the exchange. The park police weren’t so into that, taking chase after us through the neighbourhood. As we raced our bikes through backyards and secret cutties, we realized that the high-school-kids-buying-weed-in-the-park schtick wasn’t the most original. I made it home just in time for dinner.
I sat patiently through Shake‘n Bake chicken cutlets, steamed broccoli and rice pilaf, adrenaline still pumping through my veins. I couldn’t wait to try that shit. After dinner, we met at our secret smoking spot in the back of the church parking lot, prepared for our baptism of fire. Covetous of our treasure, we pinched off little leaves, inhaling tiny puffs of exultation, holding the smoke in until we keeled over in coughing fits of laughter. I will never get higher.
I was thinking about that experience as I drove home from the medical dispensary last week. I’m still listening to the same rap music, still leaning back with one hand on top of the wheel. But now, I live in a world of ultimate cannabis convenience and commercialism. Instead of counting my blessings after a police chase, I’m counting my reward points in pursuit of exclusive deals. On that day, I had accumulated enough points to get $55 off a vaporizer cartridge. Lo and behold, my favourite cart had just come back in stock—a Bodega Bubblegum Live Sauce Pax Pod that warms my cockles just right.
After placing the order online, I took a leisurely drive over to the store for curbside pickup. As I was chilling in my warm car, the budtender came to confirm my order and take payment. “I’ll be using my reward points,” I let her know with a triumphant smile. Thrilled with my timing, I looked up, hoping the budtender felt the same way. Instead, her face wore the fatigue of being cold, stoned, and repetitive. I placed the cash in her hands, and she returned shortly with my bounty of earthly delights. I was pleased with my purchase, a shopping bag indiscreetly sitting on the front seat next to me, full of vaporizer cartridges, edibles, and jars of Mr. Stinky McStinky. I went in for the deal, and somehow, I still bought a bunch of random shit for full price. ‘Cause that’s how they get you.
The two experiences feel like they are a thousand miles apart, when in reality, they were both less than a mile away. I thought about how I am living in that high school kid’s fantasy world as he fled over strangers’ flowerbeds on his quest to catch his first real buzz. But what is the real cost of convenience? And why are these young’uns always texting me?
A sale on this, a discount here, 2 for $5, 3 for $10. But what if I just want one, when I want it, for the best value possible? “Nobody wants just one, you silly rabbit,” Captain Commercialism laughs at my impudence, as my inbox drowns in coupons and special deals. I’m overwhelmed by weed happy hours and flash sales offering 10% off this strain or a free pre-roll if I buy two. I get three to four texts a day about what will happen if I show up at a specific store right now to buy pot. They know it's working because I’m not just a rewards member. I’m the club president. I get high and worry about missing a deal on the same weed I’m smoking right then. I thought this stuff was supposed to reduce anxiety. I’m like your aunt who has to cut out coupons before she goes to the grocery.
The cost of herb used to be calculated by how much you bought multiplied by how much respect you had on the street. I love these times of legal cannabis, but I also treasure the days when accessing weed was an inconvenient and somewhat nefarious act. When it mattered who you knew and who knew you. When street cred still meant a damn thing. I would get into some seedy situations just trying to cop a bag of sinsemilla. A time when strength of character was built in a smoky room, passing a Dutch to the left. If you didn’t have the right connection, you got taxed. If you weren’t far enough up the ladder, you got taxed. If you didn’t know any better, you were probably getting taxed. Yet, somehow, weed was still cheaper than it currently costs in most dispensaries. I have climbed that ladder, carefully minding my Ps and QPs, and yet here I am, ready to once again pay retail. I love these specific cultivars and lab-tested percentages, these Internet menus, and pretty little jars. I used to have the hookup. Now I’m just hooked.
Back in the day, we bought whatever chronic was in the dealer’s shoebox under the bed for whatever they were charging. These days, people are attached to specific strains and consistent effects, with high expectations on product availability and discounted prices. It isn’t just the stores trying to manipulate the public with sales and promotions. Most consumers require it. For many of the original, locally-owned DC metro area dispensaries, margins can be razor-thin. They need to blaze that loud or get smoked out. Customers will always follow the loud noises, pretty colours, and best deals. The marketing infrastructure of larger cannabis corporations forces mom and pop shops to compete on a whole other level. Everyone wants something for free, and if not, it better be half off. It seems like supply and demand comes with a lot of demands.
I understand profit, I recognize the price of regulation, and I respect the cost of each stage of cannabis production and distribution. But I also know that the historically illegal market of cannabis can produce and provide a high-quality product for less than half the cost of most legal marijuana. These are the small farmers who have always lived in a gray area of a black market, working hard to run a green business, fighting to stay out of the red while dodging the blue, growing a plant still more federally prohibited than that white. These rugged individuals who care so deeply about this magic plant and how it can help others have proven that it can also be affordable. Yet, in this increasingly corporate cannabis world, along with Uncle Sam taking his piece, many hands are reaching into the pot. Consumers are left holding the bag of extremely overpriced herb.
Ganja towers in its flowers’ powers to turn the sun and earth into euphoria. I feel that Mary Jane grows out of a higher virtue; that its branches and leaves can reach up to new heights of positive energy and inclusivity. Then I pull up to the dispensary for the 4/20 sales, and that little demon rises in the pit of my stomach… “till supplies last.” But once I am in line, I reaffirm that positive belief. These are my people. I’m not there to get the last or cheapest one. I’m there hoping everyone gets one that needs it. Yet, that may not be possible. Often, individuals that can benefit the most from medical marijuana may not be able to afford it. This weed of wellness shouldn’t just be the grass of the upper class.
My friends make fun of me for not smoking their random weed. Teasing me for paying retail to get the products I want. It's the same way I treat my food. If they are accusing me of being conscious about what I’m putting in my body, then I am guilty as charged. Yet, I recognize that my crime of weed snobbery comes with an additional count of 3rd-degree privilege.
When I was growing up, I took risks to find the best weed, overpaid just to have a taste of the sweetest of sweet, sweet ganja. There was a chase for the prize, and it was exciting to catch the prey. If the price were not so high, then the discount wouldn’t feel as good. Maybe this constant barrage of sales and promotions plays to that primal chord, inciting an instinct to catch that stinky stink before the deal goes extinct.
This fear of missing out keeps me coming back and buying more. No matter the cost. But the cost does matter—legally, ethically, and economically. The freedom and convenience of legal herb is priceless, and its integrity shouldn’t be discounted. This brand-new legitimate marijuana industry has much room to grow, but I believe its heart is in the right place. In our hands, as we carefully tend to this bud that can be so kind.
Now, I’m home with my trophy, polished through introspection. Ready to transition from inner conflict to inner peace. We are at the twilight of prohibition, and it is up to us to sow the seeds of safe, equitable cannabis access for generations to come. Let’s make sure we roll this joint up right.
Listen on Spotify
This mix represents the classic hip hop era vibe Johnny Mumbles grew up with, along with a few newer gems still carrying the torch. And a Tom Waits song because it just made sense. Make no mistake, this playlist is uncut and raw. Anyone who does not enjoy offensive lyrics may want to take caution before listening. Please be conscious of the effect of derogatory language on your community before blasting it on the car radio driving down the street. Unless you are in a drop top Benz looking to make a serious impression on the neighbours. In which case, you may want to ghost ride the whip too. You have been disclaimed, now bump that shit.
Listen to our custom Johnny Mumbles-curated "The inflation of inhalation Mix" on Spotify.
Johnny Mumbles is a lifelong cannabis connoisseur. After years of exploring America's marijuana meccas, he’s settled down as a card-carrying medical cannabis patient. An adult diagnosis of epilepsy inspired the exploration of the medical benefits of CBD along with his faithful compatriot, THC. Aside from travelling the path to enlightenment, he spends his time making hip hop cassette mixtapes, watching VHS movies and rattling away on a typewriter. His goal is to elevate the cannabis conversation by any means possible, one head at a time. The Tao te Ching says, “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.” He knows just enough to not speak clearly.