Ryan Alexander-Tanner

MY HISTORY with cannabis has made my life immeasurably richer in more ways than I can describe. I have also been keenly aware of its medicinal benefits from an early age. But it wasn't until I moved to Portland that I was asked to share those benefits with others.

I arrived in 1988. At that time, I was working in the film and television industry, and had no idea where to start to find work. A friend said I needed to meet with someone named Keeston Lowery in the city's film and video office. It was one of those times when you instantly connect with someone, and we became fast friends. He helped me get my first movie job up here (Dennis Quaid bumps into me in Come See the Paradise).

He also loved to smoke weed. I mean, LOVED it. I would tell stories, but some of them involve folks who are still at city hall, so I won't.

A few years later, a mutual friend approached me, looking ashen. "Keeston is sick. Really sick," he said. At the time, that was shorthand for AIDS. This was a solid decade-plus before there were effective treatments for HIV, and my friends from that period who contracted that horrible fucking disease—all of them—have passed.

"He can't smoke anymore, and he's in the hospital," our mutual friend said. "Could you make him some pot brownies?"

I could, although I had no idea what I was doing, and this was before the internet was of any real use for this sort of thing. But I was dating a woman whose brother grew cannabis. He graciously provided me with a tub of supercharged emerald-green pot butter.

I started with two boxes of Betty Crocker brownie mix. After placing the brownies in the oven, I performed the timeless ritual of licking the mixing spoon. "Ohhhh, don't do that," my girlfriend warned. "You are gonna get way too high." I scoffed, and proceeded to lick the entire bowl clean. "Oh-kay," she nodded sagely, "oh-kaaaay." The details are hazy, but I recall watching us have sex from my perch on the ceiling, laughing at—and then becoming—my cat, and throwing up for three hours straight, and because I'm like a bear with honey when it comes to brownies, I ate four or five once they were done.

Our friend took the brownies to the hospital the next day. He called me that night. "What the hell did you put in those? Shrooms? Because Keeston has been laughing nonstop, and actually has an appetite!" This process was repeated, and for a brief period, Keeston was able to go home, having gained weight from his munchies.

He died a couple months later in August of 1993. Seven hundred people filled the amphitheater at the Rose Garden in Washington Park for his memorial. (Please Google him; he was a pioneer for gay rights in Oregon.)

But I think of him every time someone with a sick relative, friend, or loved one asks, "Can you make pot brownies?" I sure can. Amazing ones. Thanks, Keeston.