It’s been five years since I bought weed from my New York dealer — I now live in L.A., with at least a dozen pot shops in walking distance — but I still get texted by the old delivery service. The updates are infrequent, but comforting: special deals, an announcement that they’ll come to Jersey City now, even a message to say “happy holidays.” Sometimes nostalgia for my 20s brings a smile to my face. Sometimes I’m nagged by the guilt that I ghosted this one guy who came to be a friend. He even read my first book, for god’s sake.
I’m happy his organization is still in business, but for how much longer? The whole region is trending toward legalization, and almost nobody wants to score a baggie from a cyclist on a random street corner if they have the option of buying high-end products in the comfort of a retail setting. The black market will remain, though, for people who cannot afford the additional taxes or produce the identification to become state-sanctioned consumers. Meanwhile, everyone else will have to face the awkward task of cutting ties with their usual source. Or just… losing touch.
The good news is that you don’t have to feel too bad for the nug-slingers who were once among your top contacts. If they’ve been successful so far, they are likely to have the entrepreneurial shrewdness to adapt or even thrive in the new age of Mary Jane. Others will simply get out of the game. After years of underground competition and losing buyers to rival dealers, they have no illusions about the ebb and flow of business, nor the transactional nature of their often casual-seeming acquaintance with pot smokers. People quit or move away. Things change.
All the same, we’re losing something as cannabis makes the transition from countercultural substance to corporate behemoth. The plant once forged social scenes and connections, a semi-secret club of stoners with the chill, reliable dealer as a vaunted hero of the scene. (The TV series High Maintenance gives a sense of how such a character mapped a web between many otherwise disparate lives.) In short, we can’t properly move on to the 420-friendly U.S. without taking stock of the past — not only the brutally racist legacy of the War on Drugs, but the illicit relationships that persisted in spite of over-policing, many of which can be remembered fondly. Your weed dealer might have kept you waiting for hours, or charged too much, or texted in baffling code, but they also came through when it counted — and really never took a day off.
Doesn’t that entitle them to a proper goodbye?
As to the question of how to say farewell: As with romantic breakups, it helps to be direct, and state the situation clearly. Your dealer isn’t oblivious to the political climate, and they’ll know when you have the option to purchase at an authorized seller. If it’s too harsh to say that you prefer the convenience of a brick-and-mortar store with regular hours and massive selection, then you might make the moral case: By joining the regulated market, a chunk of the money you spend goes toward state funds that pay for services like public schools, substance abuse outreach and health-care education. The rapidly expanding industry has also created tens of thousands of jobs as unemployment has spiked. Supporting this system, imperfect as it may be, is a greater good than funneling money up to unaccountable suppliers. And it’s the future.
Or, if none of that sounds right, you can always improvise:
As for me, it’s a little too late to pour my heart out in a message to my former dealer, thanking them for almost a decade of psychedelic support. But next time I get an update from that number, I might tell them that although I moved across the country — to a land of bountiful bud — they still have a place in my heart. That I would not be the pothead I am today without their help.
Plus, you never know: I could end up back in town sooner than later, looking to reconnect. Beats hooking up with an ex!