Tojo Andrianarivo

The air at the ongoing Portland protests—which have continued for more than 100 days in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police—is often filled with burning, peppery smoke from tear gas, or fragrant sage from activists. But a wide variety of attendees also use cannabis—smoked, vaped, imbibed, or otherwise—to maintain their cool or treat aches and pains associated with the ongoing days of marches and the threat of unpredictable violence.

Even journalists, like reporter and podcast host Cory Elia, keep a vape pen on hand. “If I'm out there and it's getting too intense, I’ll take a drag to calm down a little,” Elia says. “I started using it after the first month, mostly for PTSD. The funny part is, after getting shot with munitions for the last hundred-odd days, I pulled the disc in my back and pinched a nerve from coughing off the joint.”

Other activists and journalists commented that a joint or vape session at the end of the night was the only thing that helped them sleep after running from flash bang grenades or seeing their colleagues tackled forcefully and arrested. But not many were willing to actually go on the record, perhaps for obvious reasons. One exception is Elia who co-hosts a KBOO podcast with journalist Lesley McLam called TRIPP-P (“trippy”) which focuses on “politics, protest, and potpourri”—the last being a tongue-in-cheek play on cannabis and the eclectic mix of cultural commentary Elia and McLam provide.

Elia says he has a high tolerance for cannabis, so he uses a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC which keeps him calm without making him high. Like many people who partake, the amount and type of cannabis he uses depends on the situation. For instance, when a night of coverage looks like it might stretch on, Elia will sometimes take a 1:1 edible for the prolonged, slow release. Lately Magic Number CBD soda is his favorite thing. “It's basically cherry and vanilla-flavored carbonated water with about 25 mg of THC and 25 mg of CBD,” Elia says. “Just drinking one of those keeps me calm for hours.”

Cannabis is also used as a method of aftercare for protesters. Countless mutual aid organizations give out bottled water and food at the demonstrations, but a few also put together care packages that sometimes include cannabis products like CBD ointment.

Chuck Adams of Frogsong Farm donated canisters of topical CBD salve to a local mutual aid organization to show the company’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement. “We believe businesses need to stand for more than simple profit seeking, and we try very hard to put our money where our mouth is,” Adams writes over email. “We also believe in free speech and the right to peacefully protest. So this was just another way for us to support movements for change—for a more fair, just, and equitable world.” Frogsong Farm requested that their product be used “to support peaceful, daytime protests, knowing that standing on asphalt or concrete all day long, for multiple days, makes for some sore muscles.”

•••

It’s Wednesday night and it’s raining. In response to the Kentucky grand jury's refusal to charge officers involved in the Breonna Taylor's death, hundreds gather in front of the downtown Portland Justice Center and listen to Black women speak about this decision and their fears.

“Breonna Taylor was murdered! Breonna Taylor could be me,” a 17-year-old college student says. Behind her another woman holds a sign: “I am Breonna Taylor.”

Unfortunately this scene is disrupted when someone on the other side of the building lobs a Molotov cocktail at officers, and the combined might of the Portland Police and federal officers from the Department of Homeland Security pushes everyone in the Justice Center area west to I-405 with tear gas, pepper balls, and other less lethal munitions.

In the aftermath, I see a group of women under an overhang, sparking a bowl. They look grim and soaked. Ten minutes later, I see the same women again and they’re singing—arms linked—marching past impromptu barricades back toward downtown.

Find more great cannabis articles just like this one in the Mercury's Cannabis Guide 2020!