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[For Part I of my story into the cannabis industry, visit https://marylandconnoisseur.com/lit-witchcraft to read my VIP Column.]

Someone in a ladies room once told me the key to success was in doing what you love. Like most things I’ve been told in a ladies room, it’s turned out to be true.

But the problem has always been that I love a lot of things. I grew up playing musical instruments, reading books, and writing stories. I recorded a jingle for a made-up shampoo commercial in elementary school, and branded a whole line of Barbie clothing in my parents’ shag-carpeted basement.

Weed was something I had to be interested in in private, or at least downplay the extent of my interest. Growing up in a DC suburb, there are a lot of expectations for greatness, and smoking pot was the classic sign of that never happening. I still remember a friend’s mother confronting me in a park to describe how her oldest son had been busted at college for throwing a “pot party” in his dorm room, and now his life was going to be ruined. Flash forward to 2018, when many recent college grads are entering the legal cannabis industry and making bank on their masterful knowledge of pot.

But that’s just the thing–we are only as smart as we acknowledge our ignorance. That is to say, what we are “masters” of now may not be relevant tomorrow. There’s naturally a strain of nouveau-riche entitlement and arrogance that runs through some cannabis industry workers, but that presumption of omniscience is not only not helpful to the patients, it’s damaging to the movement as a whole.

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“See, told ya, mom.”

Cannabis is a medicine yes, and it is also a commodity. If this irks you, just look at the way both life-saving and addictive medications are pushed on us from every direction. The pop-up events in D.C. were my first exposure to public displays of weed, and I immediately began taking note of how it was sold, with the idea of becoming a cannabis-focused writer. Maybe if I documented this paradigm shift as it unfolded, I could have some influence on the integrity and equality of the industry.

Thanks to Initiative-71, D.C.’s legal “gift” economy, little businesses and grow operations have been popping up and bringing their goods to secret locations accessible only by direct messaging the vendor through social media. Your purchase officially goes towards stickers or other chotchkies, with the 1/8th of weed as a “free gift.” I’d buy in bulk and take advantage of steep price breakdowns.

At the time, I was picking up freelance copywriting gigs, working a few hours a week as a college writing tutor, and applying to full-time office jobs. So for the price of some cash and driving back and forth on 95, I could get a good 2-week dose of my medication while I fretted over work and tried to finish a novel. 

The addresses I visited were all over the city, in unoccupied row-homes, warehouses, or on the top floor of a walk-up bar. You knew you were close ‘cause you could smell it. Rolling up with a few friends, it often felt like entering a frat party or your old drug dealer’s living room times ten. The air is thick with blunt smoke, Axe Body Spray, and the

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 You can smell this room.

dank terpene stench of 10-15 tables full of flowers, edibles, concentrates, topicals, or tinctures.

I was usually one of the few women at these events, and we’d kind of nod at each other in solidarity. I took note of the events where there were more likely to be female vendors, or at least a greater diversity of visitors. I loved seeing the hand-clasped elderly couples all giddy as they entered the bumping, 90’s hip hop zone.

But the clientele at these events were generally filled with really large, beefy, or tall dudes. There would be maybe ten people on the first floor of a row home, but you couldn’t move to the next table without bumping into a sweaty armpit or getting your boob elbowed by accident. I always wanted to make my purchase and get out as quickly as possible.

 The look of a vendor’s table–and the vendors themselves–didn’t always indicate the quality or value of the product. But I was more likely to buy if:

1. The vendors smiled even once at me. 

2. The products were labeled well so I didn’t have to yell over the music to hear whether a hybrid was indica-leaning or sativa-leaning, and extra points for not being too pushy.

I gave double-extra points for not being involved with some of these vendors’ Instagram accounts that regularly posted disturbing or sexist content, sometimes to advertise their event. Talk about a buzz kill.

The throwback style of the pop-ups is quite cool, with the whole  “look at us now” atmosphere of laid-back cockiness. Your first time at one of those, try to resist the urge to high-five everyone you see. You get to choose the kind of flower you want, based on the high you want, the level of discretion you want, and buying in bulk means you’re paying rock-bottom prices for top-quality flower.

via Looper

But lest our glasses become too verdant, it’s crucial to acknowledge the risk that comes with attending these events. Since the Cole Memo was rescinded in January of 2018, the federal government is free again to step in and shut down these events, based on marijuana’s Schedule I classification. I’ve gotten lucky, but taking the risk feels reckless, especially when there’s legal, tested weed at your favorite dispensary that’s clean, professional, and full of people who remember your name.

“NORM!” (via GIPHY)

I was obviously thrilled when Maryland passed its medical cannabis laws, allowing dispensaries to get licenses and start providing state-tested, medical-grade product to Maryland’s patient base. This hopefully means safer and better product and experiences, and fewer people taken away from their families for having a little weed on them.

Interested in women-owned canna-businesses? Who are the Women of Weed? I’ll be putting together a list of some of my personal inspirations, and feel free to comment with your own!

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