Cameron Zegers for 1859 Magazine
Ryan Alexander-Tanner

EVEN REGULAR READERS of this column—all five of you—may not realize I have a "day job." I know this may come as a shock, as there are few careers more secure and lucrative as those in the newspaper industry. That's why there are hundreds of children each year who dream of growing up to be a weed columnist. (Please do not tell me it is otherwise.)

My day job also involves weed—surprise!—although I don't grow it or sell it. But what I do with it caught the attention of 1859, an Oregon-based magazine, as they were preparing their first feature on cannabis. They called me for an interview to talk about how legalization has impacted Oregon. We chatted, and I suggested some more folks who might help them with their article.

A couple of days later, I got an email from the magazine's art director. "I have a potentially tacky question to ask," she wrote. "Would you be willing to help us gather up some marijuana for our photo shoot? We need both full plants and buds. We can't pay you, but we would be happy to give a credit to you and the farms."

"So you're seeking a weed wrangler?" I asked.

"Exactly!" came the response.

I'm not gonna front—this is the job I've been dreaming of since I was 18. (Sorry, Oregon Liquor Control Commission, I mean since I was 21.)

We worked out the particulars; the shoot would take place at a condo in the Pearl with "great light." The photographer and her assistant confessed to being very light smokers, and asked that I also bring along "things a weed smoker would use."

"Like a PlayStation 4 and a cheesecake?" I asked.

No, actual things that a budtender would need: tongs, chopsticks, large glass jars, and a particular kind of pipe.

The first step was to procure the weed, so I called five friends who grow for the medical and recreational programs. Some are large farms, some are medium sized, and one's a small grower who had just started his operation.

I asked each of them each to bring a freshly cut branch of flowers and several dried strains of bud that were particularly photogenic. For our rendezvous, the growers agreed to meet me at my neighborhood coffee shop. Each walked in with a freshly cut branch of swollen, crystal-filled flowers stuck in a jar of water. And a clanking bag of glass jars filled with dry buds. One brought me a cardboard box nearly collapsing under the weight of the 40 mason jars inside, each containing a different strain.

Then there was the matter of the smell. Dear god, the smell. The baristas' eyes grew wide from the scent, long before they saw the source. "Is someone smoking a joint in here?" asked one.

I confessed and showed her the branch. "Can I hold it?" her coworker wondered.

Customers gathered around the counter. "Is that real? I've never seen one in, like, real life."

"It's so bright and sparkly!"

I had similar experiences on my way to the photo shoot. As I got in and out of the car, passersby stopped me, meekly asking if they could hold a branch and inhaling deeply. "And this is legal, right? I'm not going to get a ticket for holding this?" asked a middle-aged man.

Only one person raised their eyebrows in a judgmental way—the woman with whom I shared the elevator in the fancy Pearl condo where the shoot took place. She offered a dramatic sniff and a scowl. I gave what I hoped was a warm smile.

"You know that the smoking of... anything... isn't allowed in the building?"

I explained I was just providing some cannabis for a photo shoot, with no plans to consume. No sooner had I said it than the doors opened on my floor, where the photographer stood waiting for me, one arm holding a camera bag and tripod, the other fully occupied by a baby.

"You must be our weed wrangler!" she said.

The woman on the elevator slowly shook her head as the doors closed behind me.