San Francisco – Blunts, buds, dope, fire, ganja, grass, hashish, joints, nugs, pipes, pot and weed. These are all synonyms for cannabis and marijuana. You are ‘lit’ when you are ‘high’ or ‘stoned’. And with the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) that has all been legalized since the first of January in California.
By: Shivani Boer
California became the first state in America where cannabis has been legalized for medical use in 1996. People were able to get their marijuana with a medical card, as long as they were 21 and over. With the new legislation, the AUMA allows adults from 21 and over in California to buy, possess, carry and share up to an ounce of weed and edibles. Edibles can be anything and have a little amount of cannabis inside.
A study by the National Drug Early Warning in 2015 showed that youth consumption of cannabis is lower in San Francisco than the national average. 71 percent of high school students here have never used marijuana, compared to 59 percent of high school students elsewhere in California. So far, there is no study done on consumption from cannabis on college students. But since legalization, it might get easier for students from 21 and over to get marijuana.
After having walked for at least fifteen minutes, an orange container, with a few windows built inside, shows up as if it just appeared. Before you can enter, you need to walk up the wooden stairs. Inside the container, there is a small queue behind the two glass-lined cash registers. This is the BASA Collective, a tiny local dispensary in the Lower Haight neighborhood in Castro.
A stoned old man, in a long and shiny red coat, orders a few grams of weed at the cash register. The man standing next to him is talking to the cashier about some ‘amazing’ shoes he would like to buy, while she is packing his joints. Another man, who wears a dark blue suit and holds an iPad in his hand, covered in a brown leather case, is nervously moving back and forth and looking around.
It takes at least another ten minutes before Chetan J. (22) may go up to the cashier and order his weed. This is the first time he is going to buy his own marijuana from a dispensary. Before, he would always get it from his friends who all have their own medical card. He does not have a medical card. But since legalization, that should not matter.
While ordering his weed, the lady with outstanding bright purple hair tells Chetan that the dispensary does not have their license yet to sell weed to people without a medical card, even though they are 21 and over. He has to come back on Monday, then it will all be set with the licenses.
Disappointed and hungry, Chetan bumps into the Bean Bag Café, one block away from the dispensary, on the corner of Divisadero Street and Hayes Street. “I could really smoke a blunt right now”, he says with little despair in his voice.
Besides the fact that he could not get his weed tonight, he is quite positive about the legalization and says his life remained the same. “I think that since it is legalized, it will be more expensive for students because the government has put 30 percent tax on the sale of cannabis. Other than that, people are better educated. They know about the consequences and benefits.”
Rachael Kagan, spokeswomen for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, confirms the better education about weed. “We have launched a huge campaign to ensure that people under 21 have the facts they need to make their decisions about consuming cannabis.” The campaign will provide clear information about the new law, the possible risks of marijuana and how to resist the impact of advertising.
Liping H. (21) is eating chocolate covered blueberries, which gives him a slightly uplifting high. “I generally do not like smoking, because it is not good for your health, so I do not smoke weed. I have tried it the first time when I was in Amsterdam last year. At that time, the effect was a bit overwhelming. Now I prefer edibles, like these ones”, as he points to his tiny white box of blueberries from Eaze. “But only like once a month or two”, he says innocently.
Eaze is a cannabis platform, which provides a link between the dispensaries, drivers and patients. The products on their website are specifically available from a dispensary within the area the customer orders. “We actually do not sell any cannabis nor deliver them. We link up the costumer with the dispensary and the delivery process. So, you are actually getting products delivered from the dispensaries and you do not need to go to the dispensary yourself”, says Matthew F. from Eaze.
After eating his last blueberry, Liping continues with a louder voice: “I think the legalization of cannabis is incredibly important. By legalizing it, we can provide tax revenue to services and besides, it decriminalizes weed smokers who are not even violent. There are also multiple studies that talk about the health benefits of cannabis.”
Isabel M. (24) is one of many girls who also smoke, but mostly for medical use. “It helps me to relieve my stress. There is a lot of research that it is actually helping a lot of people, from all different ages. And if you see weed as a medicine, people seem to be more open with it. There is even scientific backing for like sociological well-being, even as mental and physical.”
Jesus C. (22) smokes weed daily, depending on his timeframe. At first, he was ‘kind of cautious’ about the legalization. But it is either a good and a bad thing. “Good for business, state taxes and jobs. But I also feel like not everybody should get stoned all the time. That is the thing: some should and some should not. But then again, we are at the beginning of the future right now and we are heading to a really cool place.”
From the eight states in the US where marijuana has been legalized for recreational use, only Washington has a higher tax rate of about 50 percent. San Francisco is now known as the second city with a high tax rate of about 45 percent.
This week Jesus has bought his weed for the first time legally in a shop in Los Angeles, California. “The taxes were just extremely high. They charged 25 dollars tax on the product. Originally it was supposed to be 65 dollars retail price, but it bumped up to 85 dollars and I was just like: what the heck? I even wanted to say: ‘Oh no, never mind’, but it was like a treat to myself, because I was in LA and it was a new shop.”
Jesus grabs his ‘designers’ and smells it. Designers are weed products from a company which is reputable, he explains. “Do you smell it?”, he then asks. On the little box, which looked like an old black photo roll box, it says ‘Wedding cake’. That is how it is supposed to smell, but it smells more like peppermint. According to Jesus, there are a lot of: “earthy smells, citrusy smells, lemon smells, sweet smells, cheesy smells. It is a mixture of everything. Taste-wise, it is just as good. I would say that most people would like to smell the bud first. It is just like a glass of wine, you smell it first.”
A little confusion over here. Bud?! ‘No, not that butt”, he says, while laughing out loud. “But the ‘bud’. Bud is a slack name for weed.” Jesus knows a lot of slack names for weed, here you can listen to them.
“It is 4:20 right now!”, Jesus says with a big smile on his face. “That means everybody smokes around this time. Well, everyone has a different connotation for it. But for the most part, it is just that time that people would either joke around and smoke at 4:20. There is a story behind it, but I do not know it exactly. A different number is 7:10, this is another indicator of marijuana.”
These students are smoking weed or using edibles, mostly socially and occasionally or just once in a while. And they are aware of the possible the consequences. But what are the consequences exactly? “We know that young people’s brains continue to develop until their mid-twenties, so they are at a higher risk of having negative impacts of consuming cannabis when they are younger. It has an impact on their memory, on the attention-span and the brains development is at higher risk for people who are younger. So, we are concerned about that. The health department has a health impact assessment posted online, which goes over a whole variety of issues around cannabis”, says Kagan.
Whether students are going to smoke more often since legalization, Kagan does not know. “There will be more visibility for cannabis certainly. There will be more advertising. There will be retail stores. There will be more product, so I think the opportunity will represent itself more often, but I do not know if that will lead people to do it more.”
According to Matthew, students are going to smoke more often actually. “If the stigma of marijuana use is lessened, people will be more likely using cannabis instead of alcohol. And I do not see a problem with it. It has always been available. Now that is has been legalized, it will reduce the risk of going out and getting it. You are not going to wind up in jail. People try to say it is a gateway drug, but I am completely against it. If I can think of anything, cannabis can get people away from any drugs.”
On the other hand, Jesus says it is tricky to say whether students are going to smoke more or less since legalization. “I would not say it is folly because of the legalization. Students are the number one population to be smoking. And then it is for older adults. It kind of varies. Even before legalization, people were smoking. So, yes, it will go up eventually. Because more individuals would be kind of less afraid of the whole legal consequences.”
But there is a downside: “Some individuals cannot control themselves. They do not have discipline, so that might be a thing. But then again, we have alcohol, tobacco and a lot of worse things out there”, says Jesus.