We sat at the outside patio of the Southern Illinois Mexican restaurant finishing off our jumbo margaritas. They made them strong but still our friend insisted on spiking them with tequila she had brought from home in a Tupperware container. Her boyfriend pulled out a joint. “After dinner smoke?” he offered. He lit it and passed it around, our smoking circle quickly included the neighboring table when they whiffed the molta. It was a different scene than when we had left Illinois 6 years prior. In 2020, Illinois had become the eleventh state to legalize weed. And people were smoking it up. The hotel smoker’s area was littered with the ends of fat blunts left behind by a traveling basketball team.
I wonder if future generations will look back to these times like we do today when listening to stories about Grandpa’s moonshine running. With weed readily available at dispensaries and shops the idea of having to navigate the art of seeking it becoming rather antiquated. But during the days of cannabis prohibition in order to smoke you needed a connection, or “connect” as we called them.
Finding a good connect was tough. It goes without saying that first and foremost, they had to not short change you on the weight. Most drug dealers were honest about that. But the bad ones would leave you hanging in a KFC parking lot for an hour as they stopped to holler at their friends. Some might just give vague directions to a spot in the mall parking lot. It became a scavenger hunt of looking for the right grey Honda. The good ones invited you over. They had nice product, offered to smoke with you out of their supply, and sometimes gave out extras like ice tea and cookies. No bullshit. No hassle. It was like a friendly neighborhood visit to borrow a pound of sugar and listen to a 20-minute Grateful Dead song. But a good connect could be come a bad one due to various issues. Maybe their source ran dry or Family Services were coming around and they had to lay low. But with weed often difficult to find, even a not-so-great connect was worthy of going on the Christmas card list.
But how to establish connections? That was the situation we found ourselves in when we moved to the mountains of North Carolina. We had scraped the grinder clean and packed it along with the collected powdered keef into the bowl. I it up to my lips and coughed, blowing our last bowlful all over the bed. Finding a new connect was paramount. No friends. No workmates. We ordered a pizza. It worked in the movies, right?
“Do you know where we could get some smoke?” I asked the pimply-faced delivery driver as he handed over an extra large pepperoni. He looked at my fat tip, before writing down his number. “I get off at 11. Call me,” he said. After his shift, he returned and delivered a gram of flower and some surplus cheese sticks. We returned the favor with a shot from the Oban scotch we got for Christmas. He downed it, coughed, and said goodbye. As he left, my girlfriend wondered if he was even twenty-one. Her ingrained habit as a bartender to always card was overshadowed by her joy of having some smoke. “Does it matter? He just sold us weed,” I assured her.
As we started working and our social circles improved we made connects the old fashioned way. Finding out who smokes and asking them where you might get some too. When you’re working in the service industry it becomes even easier because 9 times out of 10, the dishwasher will also be a drug-dealer. How else do you think they can do a ten hour shift in the dish pit for minimum wage and still keep their sanity? It could just as easily be the server or line-cook or manager. Really, lots of people in the industry were supplementing those slow seasons.
Our first drug-dealers were a couple of local country boys that worked in a junkyard. They traveled around in a big busted up truck with two pit bulls and sold us brick weed. It was cheap which was good because we were broke. It wasn’t that strong though. You had to make comically oversized joints to get that head change. I think that they just liked to visit. They subsisted on Vienna sausages and liked the home cooked stoner meals my girlfriend would make for them. Other dealers soon followed. Far from the Hollywood gangster stereotypes, these were everyday people. Most were just looking to support their own habit and smoke for free. Others were just paying their bills and taking care of their children.
In the St. Louis area the weed was sold by the particular strain (wether or not it really was what was advertised is debatable) but in North Carolina, it was just called “dro”, which meant that it was mid-grade. You never knew if it was going to be a sativa that would keep you up all not creating conspiracy theories or an indica which would comatose you on the bed as Netflix accused “Are you still watching?” The most potent we ever had was some we got out of the local public housing complex. A coworker had turned us on to his connect who lived in the block. The stuff took us to the edge of hallucinating and gave us that hood stoner-skepticism—what did Babylon spring the waters with now?
Our final connect was during the pandemic, a bright young girl with dogs to play with when we came over. With lockdowns and people staying home, the weed was scarce. Our final bag was withered and seedy—as many as fifty tiny seeds to a bowl pack. We weighed it out on the scale and realized that half the gram was just seeds that popped and smoked when you missed one. And just like that, a good connect could become a bad one.
Truth-be-told, we were getting tired of the habit. The endless nature of seeking out new connects, arranging meet-ups, and playing hide-and-seek was wearing thin. I guess with a lot of things in 2020 it seemed a change was in the air. We decided that we were done with the weed habit. Besides, there was a new product in town called Delta 8 and you could buy it at the head shop.