Today’s negative political environment (read: Donald Trump) is creating a greater need for relaxation techniques. Americans have many options: going for a walk, yoga, working out or meditating to name a few. Of course each person may have their own approach, and there are other not so healthy ways to chill out: a glass of wine (even though the die hard drinkers always insist it’s good for you), hard liquor or smoking marijuana, among others. The problem with the last routine is that there are only eight states where it’s legal for recreational use: Alaska, California (of course), Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, with Massachusetts and Maine still in their early stages.
For East Coasters with the need (read: jonesin’) there’s another option: Toronto, a massive city just north of Buffalo, N.Y. If you’ve never been there, it’s New York huge and a city I recommend visiting. Cannabis dispensaries have popped up everywhere, giving Canada a much needed edge. It’s not fully legal there, just yet, the government will have that ironed out for mid-2018. Currently the individual provinces are allowed to make their own guidelines regarding public use, Toronto status: legal. Dispensaries seem to be on almost every other street, and there are a lot of streets. For the sake of research, I let my curiosity take the lead.
The last time I purchased marijuana legally was in Amsterdam, where it’s next level ganja indulgence (word on the streets of Toronto, is that’s where they’re headed too). Entrepreneurs are opening up retail shops and their business is booming. The stores are bright, fresh and make you feel like you’re in a fashion designer’s trendy boutique. You’ll find art and photography adorning the walls, comfy couches and vegan, foodie cookbooks with a marijuana theme to browse through while you wait for your name to be called.
When you walk into a store, you witness customer’s eyes piercing through the glass counter tops deciphering the various strands. You faintly smell that natural, one-of-a-kind woody scent lingering through the air. “Budtenders” behind the counters showcase their product and customers hold and inspect prospective buds for quality. After standing around aimlessly trying to fit into the process, you make your way to the counter and are asked, “Are you a member?” (Some ask if you have a medical need.) If so, you pick a variety and make a purchase, if not, you become one. It’s a simple process, show identification for proof of legal age (eighteen), you’re entered into their database and wait for your name to be called to buy. Your legal purchase is neatly wrapped up in a little gift bag and off you go; retail.
The stores have all kinds of advanced paraphernalia as well. For example, pre-packed, electronic hitters (a device my nineteen year old self thought up once with my “weed-genius” friends). One electronic “cigarette” comes loaded with fifty to sixty hits, little smoke and no smell. There are also old-school activities being recycled that I haven’t seen in any of the legal states: bong hits. They almost sound silly, but they’re part of some businesses that are pushing the envelope. According to the owner of one of these establishments, he “wants adults to enjoy marijuana just as they do wine, beer or cigarettes, open and free.” I’m not going to put his name or the name of his business, as this practice is still on the underground.
I learned about it by chance. The store front looked like any other so I walked in and observed various clear, glass bongs lined up on the glass counter tops. The host (or security) glanced over at me and I said, “Do people still do bong hits?” He said, “Yeah they do.” Shortly after, another guy appears and we engage in a good amount of conversation. Towards the end he said, “The next time you’re in town you should try dabbing with shatter.” I said, “What’s that? Some sort of strain?” He repeated it and I didn’t understand, finally he said, “It’s like a bong hit.” (It’s the act of heating butane hash oil and inhaling the vapor.) I’m now completely confused, as I’m standing inside a retail cannabis shop in the middle of the day, with no greens on display and a bunch of glass bongs, so I say, “Yeah maybe next time.” Then he says, “Or right now?” I said, “Now?”
Like any good journalist would do, I followed him. He led me to a mysterious door with an electronic key pad and security guard needed to open it. Once inside, the room was dimly lit with candles, my favorite incense was burning and LUNIZ’s I GOT 5 ON IT was pumping through the system. The room must have been sound proofed because you couldn’t hear it from the main shop — at all. Behind the counters more budtenders were there manning their stations. They filled bongs with shatter, wiped the rims down with an alcohol swab and I pulled my college days file from my long-term memory bank and went to town. I had no need to look around as I could hear the other patrons were doing the same. The cough is a hardy one. When it was over, I paid for my transaction, cash only in there. As I left the chill room, the manager tapped me on my shoulder and with a wide-rimmed, peaceful smile said, “Isn’t that just what you needed?”