Ryan Alexander-Tanner

THIS COLUMN has historically explored the numerous benefits that cannabis can provide. I've shared my own experiences using it, and, apart from a couple missteps in dosing ["Holiday Party Meltdown," Cannabuzz, Dec 10, 2014], I have a great relationship with the plant.

But have I ever regretted smoking or being with someone who was smoking? After some reflection, I would have to say yes—just once.

It was seven years ago at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. I was leaving the Four Seasons hotel at 4 am, and there was a mess of drunken (or worse) musicians and their handlers out front. There was a long wait for taxis, and I had to get into it with a very inebriated Lily Allen over a cab. ("But—but I'm Britishish and that means I get to go to the front of the line!")

I asked the driver to take me to my hotel on the north side of the city. Austin has a freeway system that was seemingly designed by a group of blind engineers, none of whom had ever seen a real road, then refined by a second group of engineers boasting a combined total IQ of 165. Also, everyone drives like it's the final lap of a NASCAR race.

The driver was a hulk-sized, middle-aged vet. The tell was that he was dressed in fatigues—that and the dozen bumper stickers addressing his feelings about having served in Vietnam. It was what John Goodman's character from The Big Lebowski would have looked like if he were behind the wheel of a cab.

I leaned back to close my eyes for the 15-minute ride up I-35. Before I could do so, the driver growled at me. "You sure smell guuuuuud." I took a moment to make sure I wasn't in a scene from Deliverance, then realized what he meant. "Oh, yeah, thanks. I'm from Oregon, and we do grow some fine weed."

"You wanna share in exchange for the fare?" he asked. I said sure, leaned forward, and placed several buds in his hand. "Be careful, it's a pure sativa, and pretty strong." I assumed he would be smoking post shift, but nope. He stuffed it into a one hitter and toked up hard, refilled, and repeated.

"This is some GREAT weed, may-hun," Walter Sobchak drawled, just as he missed my exit. "Oh, sorry, boss, let me spin us around." After exiting, going back the other way, then repeating, he took another hit—and promptly missed the same exit again. "Christ, this is great weed. Sorry, boss, one more time." Except it wasn't, and we missed the exit, again.

I had been in the cab now over an hour. We finally made the exit on our fourth attempt. As we pulled in, I said, "That weed was in a smell-proof container. How did you know I was holding?"

He narrowed his eyes and laughed softly. "Sheee-it man, the Devil knows his own," and drove off.

When I visit Austin now, I use Uber.