IT WAS the mid ’80s, and I was living in the jewel of Northern California: Sacramento, where the only culture was the agriculture. I was doing my time in high school, trying to sort out all the things that go on during those golden years, particularly trying to figure out what was “cool.” And that included cannabis.
I had already tried drinking. My first few forays involved beer—or, at least, some Mickey’s Big Mouths, as this was still a long time before craft microbrews were a thing. Not long after, someone produced a bottle of tequila. My first time drinking it, I quite literally went blind in the city’s only 24-hour doughnut shop, and then proceeded to vomit until the early hours of the next day in their tiny, filthy bathroom.
I wasn’t into coke, which along with alcohol was the most popular option for social lubricants at the time. But weed? Something that wouldn’t leave you covered in your own vomit, while making you laugh hysterically with your friends? Yes, please.
I had a friend who was a few years older. He took pity on me, my skinny ties, my two-foot-tall unintentional bouffant, and all the other charming accouterments of an adolescence under Reagan. This pity manifested itself in my older friend selling me strong quarters of Northern Lights at the low, low price of 40 bucks. These would last me for a month, unless I was sharing with my circle of friends.
Another friend had a brother, decked out in Vuarnets and popped-collar polos, who was the bane of his existence. This older brother, who we will call Peter because he was truly a miserable prick, had recently lost his weed connection. He began threatening my friend that unless he could buy an eighth from me, he was going to tell their mom that my friend was a “weed head.”
I agreed to help, but first we had to determine how to divide the quarter in half. “Peter has a scale, so it’s got to be exactly an eighth,” my friend warned me. A scale, along with a sense of entitlement that the wealthy possess, was something Peter owned that I did not.
I went to my local co-op and sought out their digital scale near the bulk food bins in the back. My hands shook as I tried to casually weigh out the sticky buds, which were all clumped together in a plastic sandwich bag. I had a mild sense of panic when I couldn’t figure out how to switch the scale to weigh in grams. Which is why I didn’t hear the ponytailed store clerk walk up behind me.
I froze mid-weigh, the scale covered in bud. He looked at me with what I now understand to be bemusement, and flipped a switch on the scale. “Smells great,” he said quietly before walking away.
I left with my perfectly weighed parcel and returned home to wait for Peter. I had marked up the price so that I could pocket an extra $10, and soon began to contemplate the money I could make if I did this type of thing on the regular. This was my new career, I quickly decided, with the possibility of making 100 dollars a month!! That would buy a ton of skinny ties!
Peter agreed to come by that Saturday at 10 am—great timing as I was going to the water park that afternoon with friends. Come noon, no Peter. I tried him on his cell, except I didn’t, because we didn’t have those. My friends couldn’t wait for me any longer and left without me. I sat seething until 8:30 that night, when Peter finally arrived.
He offered no excuses or apologies, and asked to see the sack. After examining it thoroughly, he pulled out his own plastic sandwich baggie, filled to the bursting point with... nickels and dimes.
“My mom took my allowance because of my grades,” he said. “I had to bust open my piggy bank.” He poured the change onto the kitchen table, where half of it proceeded to roll off onto the floor.
Peter laughed and left with the weed, as I spent the next 20 minutes scraping up change from under the fridge.
I got a job the following week at an ice cream parlor.