By Matthew K
Somewhere along the H Street corridor, the ******** put on a good event. It was the first one I’d ever been too, and it was definitely the first of its kind in the District.
To a graduate of the D.A.R.E program, and being from the Midwest, this event marked how things have changed in this country. Even with my pro-legalization, progressive attitude towards cannabis, the event highlighted a time and place at which I never expected to find myself. Of course, I’d gone to parties where copious amounts of cannabis were being consumed, but those parties where different. They existed solely behind closed doors, hiding from the law. This event was also behind closed doors, but it wasn’t necessarily illegal. It took place in a private residence and IDs were checked at the door.
For those of you who are in the know, then you’re probably aware of the cannabis rules in D.C., whatever you do, money cannot change hands, which puts the distribution of cannabis in a legal gray area. So, no THC infused products were being bought and sold, but there were tables full of edibles liberally being handed out inside. And, yes, large piles of flower were smoked, free of charge.
Well, the event wasn’t completely free. We did have to bring a minimum of three perishable items for a food drive. It was the weekend before thanksgiving and most people brought more than the required amount.
While queuing out on the street before the venue, I chatted with people from various parts of the District (where it’s legal to have and consume cannabis off Federally appropriated land), Maryland, and Virginia (both still criminalize recreational consumption). There were even police officers just hanging out, watching people go into the event but taking no further interest.
Whatever my expectations, I was not mentally prepared for the separate world I entered when I finally stepped off the sidewalk, through the door, and into an alternate reality. Walking in, I was handed several edibles, which I deftly secured in my satchel (said ironically). There was just a faint smell of flower being burned somewhere, but with the volume of people inside, it was impossible to see past the door to the back room. Since curiosity was the case, I made like water and slipped through partygoers to the back room. Yes, the smell was definitely emanating from here.
Unsure of what to do at first, I observed other partygoers holding up joints that seemed to appear out of thin air. Slipping further through the crowd, I noticed a table in the back, where one of the organizers was dumping piles of flower out on a table and handing it out. A shorter gentleman to my right turned to me and asked what was going on, and then it dawned on me, “They’re doling pot to anyone who can roll a joint,” I said to him. “Holy shit,” he breathed, shaking his head in disbelief, “Oh, I can roll a joint!”
Holy shit, indeed.
That’s right about where my consciousness slipped from one position and transitioned to another one. Here, in the tiny back room of this building, human society in America was shifting.
People in the city had come out to the event, despite their possible socio-economic differences, and got together over a mutual love: pot. Regardless of how our disparate philosophies, politics (probably not the red kind), or life experiences separated and divided us, no one cared. None of that was on the discussion table because all available space was taken up with a newly legalized substance (and many of its tasty derivatives). If you were standing in that packed back room, it was impossible not to politely bump into someone and pass a joint or a bowl. When people accidentally bumped into you, it was most likely to pass you something.
Now, maybe the hefty amounts of THC I was ingesting facilitated my interpretation but still, I knew what this place was; it was a real melting pot (pun intended) and something important was going on. Dude.
All around me, there was nothing but excited conversation and smiling faces. I edged past tables of cookies, brownies, rice crispy treats, altered Jolly Ranchers, and chocolate lollipops. Another gentleman had camped out in a corner, showing his wares, jars or aromatic Purple Haze and Hindu Kush, that he was handing out samples of to anyone who wanted a sniff. Ostensibly, he was there as grower and educator, who made money off educating people on how to grow cannabis. It was on his business card.
Within my first 25 minutes or so, everyone was enveloped in dense, vast cloud that had, by the very magic that people claim it has, transformed all of us strangers into one cohesive, connected thought: this event was fucking crazy.
No, that’s not it. Maybe it was something more profound… Whatever that cohesive thought was, we were all enjoying the legal grey area in which we were standing, consuming cannabis without fear of legal repercussions. Well, at that point, which was only several months ago, there was no precedent for this type of event, and, since then, these event haven’t quite gone underground but they’re a little more secretive about organizing events. But, they are still free.
In any case, the gathering went off without a hitch and without an arrest. Everyone that I ran into, left the event euphoric and slightly more slap happy than when they went in.
However, after an hour inside, I had to make an exit. Other people were waiting outside and I didn’t want to be selfish, staying the whole time. Besides, I needed to clear my head.
Walking back the way I’d come, I contemplated the event and what I thought about it. No doubt, the thoughts I was having afterwards seemed more profound than they actually were, but here we are. Giving my thoughts time to coalesce, I headed over to the National Mall where they were having a protest against the War on Drugs, rave-style. In my altered consciousness, I figured it would be a fitting way to close out the night.