Growing up, cannabis wasn’t something I thought a lot about. Like any kid, I was curious and had questions, and my mom always did her best to be open and honest with me. Looking back and knowing what I know now, I think my mom did a really fantastic job of staying neutral on the subject, which gave me the ability to do my own research and come to my own conclusions. Let’s be real though – I was probably 14 or 15 when I started really getting curious and the likelihood that I actually went out of my way to do research on cannabis before I tried it for the first time is really, really slim. My mom was educated about cannabis and she passed those little nuggets of wisdom on to me – things like “If you’re going to do it, make sure it’s with people you trust” and making sure I knew that cannabis has relatively minimal health risks. Armed with this information, when I tried cannabis for the first time I was at home, with a family member I trusted and it’s still a cherished memory. Outside of the multitude of health and wellness benefits I get from cannabis, it has also given me some of the best memories and relationships I’ve ever had.
The medical marijuana laws were passed in Arizona in my early 20s and right away my mom and stepdad got involved. For context, I’m going to expose myself a little. I try really hard, and often detrimentally hard, to get people to like me. I want to be “unique” and “cool” and “likeable” and I genuinely enjoy the attention I can get from being “interesting”. Back then, having parents that were actively growing weed was about the coolest thing I could have had and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t use that to my advantage. I had just gotten out of a pretty crappy relationship, during which I had made a small group of friends that were mostly employees and patrons of a local bar and restaurant. Five or six days a week I would spend upwards of six hours at the bar, hanging out with my friends, passing out experimental edibles my mom had forgotten about in the bottom of the freezer. Eventually, I got hired on at the MMJ co-op and started dating one of the restaurant employees. While I worked at the co-op, I helped some of my friends get their medical or caregiver cards, or at the very least did my best to educate them about all of the new laws. As much fun as those young, drunk days were – and I do have many fond memories from back then – looking back on it now is a little bit sad.
I know I wanted to share stories about how cannabis has given me family and community and love, but I don’t know if I would have any of that if it wasn’t for the mistake I made back then. I’m sure it will surprise no one, but my early twenties alcohol and lie fueled relationship didn’t last long, and when that fell apart, I was surprised that I lost all of the friends I had made too. They didn’t “pick sides”, they just kind of forgot about me. It took me a while to realize, but I think it’s because none of them really knew me. I was so worried about everyone liking me that I made cannabis my only personality trait, and when my romantic relationship ended, no one really knew enough about me, outside of my access to cannabis, to care.
Fortunately, while this was happening, I was still working at the co-op, and while I worked there, I made some real, incredible friends. When I went to work I realized that I had made real connections with these people; my coworkers and our patients. I’ll never forget a patient we had that was using cannabis to help manage end stage liver failure. When they came into the office, we talked and laughed and genuinely cared about each other. At the end of their life, they were kind enough to gift us some glass pieces from their personal collection, with the hope that they would remain appreciated by us, and they were. My coworkers and our patients knew me and appreciated me as more than just the girl with the weed, but it was the cannabis that ultimately brought us together.
Fast forward a few years. Now, I’m living in Texas with my fiance. One of my biggest concerns when we moved was the drastic shift in my access to cannabis, but fortunately, my partner still had friends here who could help us out. Those friends became some of my closest friends, too, and kept me sane while I was adjusting to being away from home for the first time in my life. Our initial bond was usually made over our similar enthusiasm about cannabis, but it always grew from there, and the older I get, the more I realize what a pivotal role my cannabis interest plays in my relationships.
Now, it obviously makes sense that you’re going to gravitate towards people with similar interests. Whether your passion is sport or art or music, it’s likely that the people you surround yourself with most often will share the same interests. What I have noticed is that there’s something unique that can happen when you’re dealing with cannabis, especially in a prohibition state.
In a prohibition state, you have to find someone to get your cannabis from, right? This can be tricky. Friends of friends, acquaintances, strangers, shady meeting places, bad deals, set ups; there are a million things to consider. I think we got particularly lucky, but I’d hesitate to say that our situation is unique to buying cannabis illegally. Our particular source is a friend, and I’d even go so far as to say that they treat my partner and I like family. We’ve had meals there, spent hours talking and laughing and smoking on their front porch. When our dryer broke, they gave us a dryer that they had never used. When we have extra food, we bring it over and sometimes, we get sent home with homemade ribs.
What I find particularly interesting is the spectrum of people we’ve met through them. We’ve had political debates that got heated and emotional conversations with people having a hard day, but at the end of it all, we’re still passing the joint. Cannabis has always struck me as having the unique ability to transcend things that we may see as a deal breaker when it comes to dealing with certain people. I definitely had my own preconceived biases when I moved to the middle of the country in Texas. The people I spend the most time with now would have honestly, probably scared the crap out of me, but cannabis gave me the opportunity to get to know them a little better and now they are some of my closest friends.
Am I suggesting that you try to chat up your dealer everytime you see them? No. What I am suggesting is that cannabis may give you an opportunity to meet people in a different way. If you’re passionate about cannabis activism, maybe look for a group in your area to volunteer for. Maybe, you’re really into D&D. Try organizing a game night (remotely or in person) with the added bonus of being 420 friendly. Family and community are what you make of them, and I have been fortunate enough that mine have always been understanding about my cannabis enthusiasm, if not downright excited about it. The cannabis community has continued to prove itself to be a diverse and generally open minded community, and I am so grateful to be able to call so many of you family.
Kelly Mahoney worked at a medical cannabis Co-op with her mother, Laura Mastropietro, dealing mainly with helping new patients acquire their medical cards and helping them find the best strains and methods. Diagnosed at a young age with spinal muscular atrophy, she was also a medical cannabis patient and still advocates for the incredible benefits, and downright fun, of cannabis. She now lives in a prohibition state as a cat mom and gamer wife.