Rolling for the homies
Cannabis mutual aid initiatives are popping up in protest hotspots
“I met a really cool guy!” says Tai Frasier, the lovable character in everyone’s favorite movie, Clueless, during a scene where she’s gushing about a new crush to her new pals, Cher and Dionne.
“He’s got long hair! He’s really funny! Straight off, right? He offers me some smoke!” Tai says.
If you remember, Cher and Dionne were totally scandalized. “Tai, are you talking about drugs?” Cher asked. “It’s one thing to spark up a doobie and get laced at parties, but it is quite another to be fried all day!” she screeched.
On the contrary, I always thought it was pretty cool and extremely normal that Travis would offer weed to Tai right off the bat. It’s how I show affection, too, partially because emotions are hard and words can be tough to spit out (I know, even for me!), but also because I just genuinely, truly believe that everyone should have access to weed at all times.
Obviously, this extends to my beliefs on cannabis legalization, in that I believe cannabis consumption, sales, cultivation, and anything else one can do with it should be legal for adults everywhere.
But, on a personal level, I’ve adopted this idea and applied it to my everyday life. An ex-boyfriend of mine was well-known for always having more joints on him than he could ever hope to smoke on his own. He would frequently offer them to people lingering outside bars, who were loudly wondering what he was puffing on. Or he would give joints to bouncers in lieu of a cover charge, hang one outside the passenger window of my car when we would roll by a panhandler, or leave a doobie in addition to a cash tip on a restaurant tab. Sweetly, there was always one for me, too. I still consider my unfettered access to his weed an act of love on his part. This was one way he cared for people around him, whether he knew them or not.
When we eventually parted ways as friends, I was forced to take stock of my own stash. It became glaringly obvious that I had been suffering from a surplus, which is a nice problem to have. I don’t think I need to go into detail on how, exactly, but it should seem obvious that a weed writer often finds herself surrounded by weed. So it is in my case. I reasoned that because I frequently have much more cannabis than I need, the only right thing to do is to share it with people who don’t have the same access.
So, now I’m that guy, too. Girl. Woman. Whatever. I’m the one who always has a lot of weed. Obviously, I run into far fewer people than I used to, thanks to Covid, but I always make sure to have on me a little bit extra. That way, anyone in the vicinity who may want to smoke but doesn’t have anything to spark won’t have to go without. It has worked out well—who is going to get mad about free weed? I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but everyone is losing their minds right now. We are all not doing okay. Weed is essential. So, I consider gifting weed to be my mitzvah, the one little thing I can do for the world (it’s also legal to do so in California, per Prop 64).
This urge to give is actually quite natural, it turns out, and it likely goes beyond mere feelings of love. Russian naturalist, anarchist, and economist Peter Kropotkin, who died in 1921, noticed the same dynamic while he was traveling through the Siberian wilderness during winter many moons ago. Kropotkin wrote in Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, in 1902:
It is not love, and not even sympathy (understood in its proper sense) which induces a herd of ruminants or of horses to form a ring in order to resist an attack of wolves; not love which induces wolves to form a pack for hunting; not love which induces kittens or lambs to play, or a dozen of species of young birds to spend their days together in the autumn; and it is neither love nor personal sympathy which induces many thousand fallow-deer scattered over a territory as large as France to form into a score of separate herds, all marching towards a given spot, in order to cross there a river. It is a feeling infinitely wider than love or personal sympathy – an instinct that has been slowly developed among animals and men in the course of an extremely long evolution, and which has taught animals and men alike the force they can borrow from the practice of mutual aid and support, and the joys they can find in social life.
It is not love and not even sympathy upon which Society is based in mankind. It is the conscience—be it only at the stage of an instinct—of human solidarity. It is the unconscious recognition of the force that is borrowed by each man from the practice of mutual aid; of the close dependence of every one’s happiness upon the happiness of all; and of the sense of justice, or equity which brings the individual to consider the rights of every other individual as equal to his own. Upon this broad and necessary foundation the still higher moral feelings are developed.
Simply put, Kropotkin saw that cooperation, not competition, was how animals collectively survived in truly inhospitable conditions. Competition only injured individual animals, which in turn weakened the whole. In modern times, Kropotkin’s theories have given way to an aid structure referred to as mutual aid or organization theory. Mutual aid organizations today help those in marginalized communities, which often lack significant formal and/or government support and access to the things people need to thrive. The basic idea is that poverty is a condition created by capitalism, not by the failings of individual people or communities. Because the workings of government and capitalism cause people to fall through the cracks, it is up to people to save each other.
Cooperation comes naturally to stoners says Stacey, the man behind Blunt Bloc Seattle. Blunt Bloc, which originally started in Portland, is a mutual aid initiative born out of the protests that is entirely focused on weed. Stacey has only been at it for about two weeks, at this point, but he has been snaking in and out of the crowds, offering edibles and CBD vape cartridges to anyone who wants them.
“Stoners, of a lot of especially the older ones, like millennials, like me, remember a time when we lived in fear of the police. Constantly, just because we had a joint on us,” he says.
“I mean, the year before we got legalized,” Stacey says of cannabis in Washington, which was legalized for adult-use in 2012, “I got busted in a city next to Seattle for having a gram of marijuana. I went to jail for a gram of marijuana!”
Stacey says that these experiences give him empathy for the current situation in Seattle, where he has been involved in the protests in one form or another since they began after the death of George Floyd. The protests there, like in Portland, have not let up since earlier this summer. Protestors are being targeted by the cops merely for exercising their rights in most circumstances.
So, Stacey decided, the protestors need weed.
“The protests have been going on for over 140 days now. We're, you know, morale has been low. People have been injured. People are dealing with PTSD. People are dealing with anxiety. And honestly, I mean, a lot of us already generally were already stoners, anyways. We’re all also financially stressed out. And mutual aid has been a big thing. These protests have helped people going with, you know, free food, water and snacks and different things like that,” Stacey explains. He adds that, traditionally, cannabis consumption has been inherently counter-culture, and so it lends itself well to, “anti-police, pro-minority,” initiatives, he says.
Stacey noticed that, down in Portland, “more unconventional” mutual aid initiatives were springing up, like Blunt Bloc PDX. Jet, who started Blunt Bloc PDX, agreed to talk to me through an encrypted network.
“[Blunt Bloc] started as an idea while I was stoned,” he says, eliciting a lot of knowing head-nodding from me. “It stemmed from hearing all too often during protests that folks don’t have weed to smoke to decompress quickly. Folks had cigarettes, but I wanted a joint,” Jet says.
Jet says he made up the name (which I LOVE), started the Twitter account, and got on the ground with some weed he had on hand. This was a few weeks ago. Today, he says, he gets most of his weed from donors who are either tapped into the cannabis industry or who grow for themselves and have a surplus. Anyone can request weed, no questions asked. “It’s as simple as reaching out to me and I deliver anywhere in Portland,” he says.
So far, Jet says, he’s, “given gifts of cannabis/cannabis products such as cartridges, edibles, tinctures, and sugar wax to countless folks. I’ve rolled over 120 joints, given out close to 100 grams, and countless edibles, all for free.”
Stacey had a similar lightbulb moment after being inspired by Jet’s organization. The two connected and agreed that Stacey could start a sister organization in Seattle—Stacey got started with his personal stash he had on hand. Now, going into its second week in Seattle, things are good. People are happy.
“Nobody’s upset about free weed,” Stacey tells me, echoing a long-held sentiment I always like to parrot out, myself. It’s legal to gift cannabis in both Washington and Oregon, as it is in California, so long as the gift does not exceed personal consumption limits. Stacey makes sure he never has more on him than is legally allowed. Both organizations have been lucky to not have any significant trouble from the police, thus far.
So far, Stacey says, he has mostly had access to just edibles and CBD carts. That started to change towards the end of last week when pre-rolled joints and other smokables started rolling in from Stacey’s partner’s connections in the cannabis industry. Ultimately, Stacey hopes to catch the ear of more manufacturers and growers and has been soliciting donations of sugar trim, ugly buds, and extra run solvent. He is also exploring seeing if he can make use of generous medical laws in the state to see if they are able to solicit openly and directly from medical cannabis companies. He is also hoping word gets around and some “far left-leaning grower” catches wind and decides to donate. That doesn’t seem too far-fetched to me at all.
As for the future of both Blunt Bloc initiatives, both Stacey and Jet say they hope to take it beyond the protests, whenever or if ever those should end. “I am currently enveloped in the protest community because of the mutual aid aspect, but this service isn’t limited to protestors,” Jet says.
Stacey agrees. He says that, when it eventually gets cold in Seattle and the protests are likely to die down a bit, he hopes to take his mutual aid beyond the immediate civil unrest.
“I want to eventually make it into an effort that’s basically, whatever I can do, I will do. You know, even if I'm just out and about, I've got joints on me. And if I see someone sitting there, having a bad day? I can walk up to them and say, “Here's a few joints. Have a good day.”
I totally understand what he means.
Apparently, there is an election on the horizon
Yeah, so, I didn’t do an election Cannabitch in the end. I wanted to. I thought about it. Really! But, I realized, there are…a lot of really great reporters dutifully covering electoral politics in the cannabis space and, you know what? I’m not one of ‘em. My brain is broken in so many ways and I am so busy with other stuff. So, rather than reinvent the wheel, I decided that I’d rather direct everyone towards some of the great coverage my colleagues have broken their own brains over, instead.
This sprawling guide from Business Insider’s Jeremy Berke and Yeji Jesse Lee is the go-to for information about anywhere that cannabis appears on the ballot.
This cannabis voting guide, by Kyle Jaeger at Marijuana Moment, is also exhaustive.
Andrew Ward at Green Flower Media recapped the last debate, which, shockingly, was actually a debate of sorts! Obviously, the recap focuses on cannabis.
The folks at Higher Ground and Seattle-based Saints Joints have created The Ballot Box, which are pre-rolled joints that come equipped with a QR code to register to vote (sorry…I am a bit, uh, late regarding that aspect). Also included is a copy of the Bill of Rights, on which, truthfully, most people could use a refresher.
If you are in San Diego, do check out the following:
I make cameos in Ryan Bradford’s AwkwardSD voter guide, which is both in written and audio form. He and Seth Combs, both former CityBeat staffers, have essentially reanimated the old, beloved CityBeat guide.
From Voice of San Diego’s Sara Libby and Jesse Marx is this podcast on California ballot measures, as well as their larger voter guide for San Diego.
I also found CalMatters’ ballot measure videos to be useful and digestible.
If you are feeling the burning desire to consume more of my work
I have a new column at Forbes! Did I tell you that? I don’t think so. Anyway, I do, and my first piece was a profile of 420Doggface208, aka Nathan Apodaca, who I suspected smoked weed for some reason. I was right and he is wonderful.
I wrote about the San Diego Asian Film Festival for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
For Playboy I wrote about the results of a survey asking about the relationship between smoking weed during sheltering-in-place.
For PACIFIC I wrote about Bruce, the amazing pig who survived his hemp farm burning down during the Valley Fire in Jamul, CA.
and, last but absolutely not least….
I STARTED A PODCAST! With all the free time I have, lol, crazypersonheadexploding.gif. Big thanks to San Diego radio legend Chris Cantore, who tapped me to reinvigorate his defunct cannabis culture podcast. It’s produced by San Diego network YEW Online and can be found on Spotify and Apple. My first guest is Jim Belushi, who I think likely needs no introduction. He has a weed farm in Oregon now! We talk all sorts of things—the SNL weed dealer, the Captain Jack strain, trauma and brain cobwebs, his brother, Dan Aykroyd, and much more.
Are we connected on social media? I always forget to plug these things. Anyway, I’m @jacqbry on Instagram and @jacqbryant on Twitter. Please do not friend request me on Facebook, that’s for IRL homies and work contacts I know well thanks to the internet. Anyway, thanks so much for being here. If it moves you, subscriptions are $35 a year and really help me keep the lights on. Please feel free to send to someone who you think might enjoy Cannabitch.