I grew up during the Just Say No campaign of the early eighties. Although the slogan was originally coined by first lady Nancy Reagan, this catch phrase quickly permeated Canadian culture and in the process we somehow managed to adopt it as our own.

I remember being rather shocked the first time I saw the iconic commercial that cracked open the shell of a raw egg and dropped the contents down into a sizzling frypan, apparently simulating our brain on drugs. It was effective. People talked about it incessantly and watching any afterschool programming without seeing the anti-drug message was almost an impossibility during my formative years.

Teachers, and just about any other authority figure with a platform continually pounded in the message that Marijuana was a gateway drug bound to lead us down the path of temptation toward addiction to stronger, and more lethal substances. This was the rhetoric that was drilled into our young brains’ day after day from junior high, right up through our post secondary educations.

Now Marijuana is legal here in Alberta, along with a collection of other Canadian provinces. You can drive down to your local dispensary and not only pick up the dried green buds, but you are also encouraged to purchase any necessary paraphernalia right off the dispensary’s conveniently located shelves. One stop shopping for the novice smoker.

Although it’s a documented medical fact that the human brain continues to develop until roughly the age of 25, I am not going to spend this blog debating whether the side effects of ingesting marijuana are hazardous for either the recreational, or the habitual users, and whether the liberal government’s plan to tax and ultimately remove marijuana from the hands of street dealers negates that risk. I believe that discussion is best suited for trained physicians and our elected liberal government. People definitely more educated on the subject that myself.

What I do want to share with you is my experience visiting one of my city’s neighborhood dispensaries.

It was already dark the night I planned my grand adventure, and since the website had promised the store was open until 10 pm, I assumed a woman in her mid 50’s should be able to slip in and out unnoticed by 9:30 pm on a Tuesday night. Well, I was wrong.

Since pot had only been legalized in the last thirty days prior to my visit, the supply chain had still not ramped up to full speed, and the city was experiencing a major shortage of marijuana, especially in the downtown core of the city where dispensaries were easier to reach by public transit.  

Since the closest location to my home was nestled deep in a residential neighborhood near the edge of the city limits, their website reported that it still had limited stock in a few of the weaker varieties. Word had obviously hit the street as customers were steadily streaming in and out of the establishment, ages ranging from what looked to be high school students all the way up to a man who easily could have passed for 70 years old.   

Unfortunately, from my car’s vantage point, I couldn’t witness the actual selling of the pot through the storefront’s covered windows. If I truly wanted to see what was going on, I’d have to summon the courage and walk inside. So, with my purse securely slung over my shoulder, I locked up my car and made my way into the dispensary.  

Not sure what I expected, the well lit and extremely clean area suddenly reminded me of a Sephora makeup store, complete with its stylish hardwood floors and plexiglass central display cases. Suddenly noticing an opening at the purchase counter, I swiftly made my way up to the twenty-somethings year old  man standing post and asked if he could help me?

Smiling, he quietly whispered, “Have you ever smoked before?”

“A hundred years ago, in University,” I admitted with a shrug.

“Well then you’re going to want to start with something that isn’t too strong,” he nodded reassuringly, reaching down into a locked cabinet and pulling out a few sample envelopes. “All I have left are the hybrids, but I’m sure you’ll be satisfied.”

We further discussed whether I was looking for a mellow, kind of kick-back and relax high, or if I was more interested in a hallucinogen-like experience before he briefly stepped away to ask new customers for identification.

“Mellow, and weak,” I quietly replied upon his return, looking over my shoulder and confirming that the other patrons in the store had absolutely no interest in our conversation.  

He recommended a mellow, whole flower, Lemon Skunk cannabis with a low TCH level of just 13.8%. Casually waiving me over to the till, he arrived seconds later with a square, plastic container tightly sealed and marked with a government UPC code. Further inquiring as to whether I had a pipe at home, he proceeded to add a small package of Zig-Zag rolling papers and a compact metal grinder that I would supposedly drop the bud into and twist clockwise for one turn.  This procedure would change the raspberry sized pot-buds into a small amount of malleable plant material. A necessary step if I was going to roll myself a joint.  

Choosing to pay the $85 price tag in cash, the salesman handed me my receipt and a small black bag with my purchase. Thanking him for his time, I turned and rushed toward the exit door just as a new group of customers walked up his counter and began questioning him about his stock.

Finally, back alone in my car with my purchase stuffed under the seat, I took a deep breath and actually spent a few minutes evaluating the neighboring businesses.

The dispensary was nestled in between a pizza joint and a nail salon right in the middle of a strip mall. The store front had no advertising other than the name and hours of operation, and I’m sure that shoppers walking down the street passed by on a daily basis without even noticing it was a government sanctioned marijuana dispensary.

This location wasn’t scary, or seedy, or beckoning underage customers to try and breach it’s doors. It was just another storefront in a collection of residential businesses. With my breathing and heartbeat having returned to normal, I headed home, confident that I wasn’t being followed after repeated checks in my rear-view mirror.

“Now what?” I asked myself aloud. I was home alone, my husband was out of town, and I was confident that no visitors would ring my bell at 11 pm on a Tuesday night.

Deciding to unpack my collection of purchases, I suddenly realized that I’d never really rolled a joint in my life. I had accepted the odd hit off joints someone else had passed me at a party, also passing it down the line to the next accepting hand the minute I’d finished coughing in response to the powerful smoke my inexperienced lungs had ingested.

So, I did what came natural to me, I Googled rolling a joint. Immediately linked up to a You Tube video, I watched the instructions three times before my first attempt.

It was a disaster, with one end of the hand-rolled joint at least twice the size of the other end, the powdery marijuana spilled out over my coffee table as I had neglected to twist or fold either of the ends.

Ripping open the joint, I attempted a second try. Finally relenting and stacking two new pieces of rolling paper together, I was able to work the dried greenery into an acceptable looking joint before licking the glue strip and then twisting the ends shut. Staring down at the mess on my coffee table, I remembered how an old boyfriend would fashion paper ‘filters’ from the cardboard of his cigarette package to make the joints easier to hold. But alas, the memory of how he did it along with his last name had both temporarily escaped me.

Scrounging through my junk drawer, I finally came up with a lighter and made my way outside to the privacy of my deck. Satisfied that I was truly alone, I lit the smaller end and deeply inhaled my first drag.

I didn’t cough, but the smoke did make my throat burn, the memorable smell seeming to hang in a thick cloud around my head. Slowly releasing the smoke from my lungs, I sat back and watched the glowing end of the joint die out, an obvious testament to my poor rolling skills.

I hadn’t rolled a ‘fattie’ or a ‘pinner’, mine was what I considered to be of average size, but I still felt nothing after my initial drag. So carefully, as I sat alone in the dark, I relit the joint and urged myself to continue smoking. Determined to see this little adventure right through to the end.

By the time I was finished or had smoked as close to the end as I dared without burning my manicured fingernails, I spit on the small butt and returned to the house, intent on discarding any remnants of my joint down the bathroom toilet.

Marijuana, papers, and grinder securely stowed away in my house, I made my way upstairs to bed. I have to admit, a little disappointed at my body’s lack of reaction.

By the time I undressed and washed up, a tingly sensation had begun to ripple through my muscles. Notably nervous, I climbed underneath the covers and began wondering what else I was about to experience. Would I suddenly be struck by the munchies and run down stairs to devour half the contents of my fridge? I really didn’t know what to expect.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure of the exact time frame, since what I had considered to be an hour had only been 10 minutes when I looked back at my digital clock to confirm the passage of time, but the high had definitely hit me and I wasn’t liking it at all.

All of a sudden, every worry, every problem, and anything I seemed to stress about in the last couple of months had moved to the forefront of my brain. I don’t think I was experiencing a full panic attack, but I was flipping like a pancake back and forth in my bed as I tried to find a comfortable position while my thoughts continued to race.

Deciding to turn on the bedroom television, the programs seemed to temporarily distract me, but again, what I figured had been hours between commercial breaks actually turned out to only be minutes.

I don’t know what time I fell asleep, but it wasn’t a pleasant or mellow high by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t remember hallucinating, but my own day-to-day worries proved sufficient to haunt me throughout the night.

When I woke up the next morning, I looked around, embarrassment and regret washing over me as I began recalling the night’s events. My covers looked like I had lost a wrestling match, the blankets and sheets on the king-size bed nearly pulled off the mattress. To make matters worse, I had spilled a bottle of drinking water on one pillow and managed to knock over nearly everything on my nightstand as I’d obviously been fumbling in the dark for another source of water.

This was not my kind of fun!

I immediately flushed the remaining 80% of my marijuana down the toilet before throwing the rest of my supplies in the garbage, securely wrapped in numerous layers of old newspaper just to insure their concealment.

After a hot shower, I made a pot of coffee and moved outside to the deck to evaluate my experience. The purchase was definitely the most pleasant part of my entire adventure, the actual high was an experience I did not enjoy in the least.

Days later after confiding about my adventure to a friend’s brother who was a regular pot smoker, he sternly warned me that I’d made three crucial mistakes. First, I shouldn’t have been alone, especially since I hadn’t smoked pot in over thirty years, and any experienced smoker should have told a beginner to buy green Zig-Zag papers, as they were stronger and an easier roll. Secondly, I probably smoked too much. The pot should have been mixed with tobacco before rolling to cut the potency if I planned to smoke an entire joint. And thirdly, why pay those kind of government prices when he could get me some really ‘good shit’ for half of what I paid?

So, in retrospect, will I smoke pot again? Probably not.

Do I think legalization is a positive government step? I still haven’t made up my mind.

Would I have been able to function or drive a motor vehicle in an emergency while high? Absolutely not.  

All I know is that marijuana is not something that appeals to me and I will stick to my wine coolers by the campfire. Not exactly my proudest moment as a member of the FIFTY CANDLES CLUB, but an experience that I managed to survive, and I can now file away deep in my memory banks.   

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