I’m not saying the reason I moved to LA was medical marijuana, but I’m not saying that WASN’T the reason either. I love pot, but I don’t have a “pot problem.” At least that’s what I tell my doctor when he starts getting pushy with the pamphlets. I smoke only on the weekends, but a fair amount of time during those weekends, especially if there’s a lot of video games on the itinerary. Depending on your point of view, you might call me a casual smoker, or you might call me a pothead. If you’re my parents, you call me a real disappointment, but that’s neither here nor there. Everywhere I’ve lived before LA, buying weed was a pain, and usually involved inviting a drug delivery person into your house. At first, that seemed scary. “There’s a drug dealer in my living room?! I’ve seen The Wire, if I hear whistling I’m outta here!” Soon it became clear that the only real danger was getting this new and horrifyingly boring houseguest out of the apartment. “Yeah, I guess Call of Duty really is a metaphor for life… don’t you have other deliveries to make?” But after LA, all that changed. Because here, a little problem with anxiety grants you access to all the marijuana you could ever smoke. And sometimes, as was the case for me last April 20th, a whole lot more that you probably couldn’t. Yeah, that’s right. As Jesse Pinkman would say, “Foreshadowing, bitches.”
Calling 420 day (April 20th) a holiday is kind of like saying Flamin Cheetos are an actual food. It sounds nice in theory, but it gets a little dicey when you start looking at the particulars. The number 420 has been associated with pot for decades, but most of the justifications are urban legends. It’s not the police code for marijuana use, or The Greatful Dead’s favorite hotel room, or even in celebration of Adolf Hitler’s birthday. (Because when I think slouchy stoner with the munchies, the first person that jumps to mind is Hitler.) But culturally it became clear that 4:20 in the afternoon was the best time to smoke pot, and April 20th was the best time to really smoke it a lot. These traditions always seemed ridiculous to me, kinda like drinking games. How about we just consume intoxicants on our own schedule? I have a feeling we’ll still all end up getting pretty blitzed at the end of the day. But in LA, 420 is such a big deal that I felt it necessary to investigate. Because I am nothing if not an intrepid reporter.
What I found was this: April 20th in Los Angeles is like Halloween, except every house is giving out the full-sized candy bars. Also, they’ve dunked those candy bars in gigantic vats of weed. Every dispensary is trying to attract the most customers, and because there are so many, things get pretty crazy pretty fast. The place I usually go to, chosen mostly for its proximity to freshly made doughnuts, was offering the following promotions: 2-for-1 joints; half-price ounces; three-quarter-priced eighths; free dabs, free concentrates, and free edibles with every purchase. You hear that?! Free Dabs! I don’t even know what a dab is, but how you can beat that? And that’s just the product for sale. They were also giving away, to anyone with a membership at the pharmacy: pieces of weed-infused sheet cake that said “Happy 430 Day!!!” on it (which is what happens when you let a bunch of stoners decorate a cake); a pot-spiked chocolate fountain, a “medicated” water cooler (water with marijuana concentrate poured in); medicated cotton candy, and medicated nacho cheese dip, which looked a lot like medicated nuclear waste. All for free, available to anyone with a prescription. You could sit there for as long as you want and eat marijuana everything without spending a dime. And believe me, many people were taking advantage of the opportunity. It was like a Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Convention broke out in there, and the Adventure wasn’t ending anytime soon. I don’t really go in for the fancy food combos, because I feel you have to draw the line somewhere. I mean, first you’re smoking pot, next you’re eating it, then before you know it you’re wiping your butt with pot toilet paper and soaking your contacts in marijuana saline solution. Everything has its limits. Although pot toilet paper would be pretty cool.
So, as a clerk with 1,000 earrings rang up my order, she innocently reminded me that because of the holiday, I could get a free hash oil hit with every purchase. Immediately I said, “No thanks, I’m kind of a wuss.” Which is true. I am kind of a wuss. In fact, I’m a lot of a wuss. Regular pot is enough for me. But as I’m walking out of the store, I hear a voice beckon from the special hash oil room… “Hey man, don’t you want your free hit?” That’s right, there was a special hash oil room. Any drug so strong that it requires its own quarters is probably a drug you want to avoid, but I’m an idiot, so I figured I’d go in and check it out. Also, I didn’t want hash oil guy to think me a dweeb, which is a pretty bold ambition considering my khaki shorts and Fraggle Rock t-shirt, but nonetheless I chose to proceed.
So I approached the hash oil counter and see a bong more elaborate than the labyrinth at the end of The Shining. “Yeah, man, you’re gonna be higher than ever, man” he says, as if he is legally required to insert the word man in every sentence. He then took a small spoon filled with a dark, honey-like wax, scoops it into the bong, and lights. As far as I could tell, I was expected to smoke the stuff they got the dinosaur DNA from in Jurassic Park, but I’m in the room, and the guy is there, and I’m totally a wuss, so I think, “What the hell, let’s just inhale. What’s the worst that could happen?” And the minute the smoke hit my lips, I felt myself go about 5% insane. It wasn’t just strong, it was Barry Bonds on Steroids strong. It was like that song “Hurt So Good,” except it didn’t hurt so good, it hurt so awful. It had been in my system for about 60 seconds, and somehow I was already high. But not in a fun way, in an “uh oh, I’ve just made a very bad decision way.”
Fairly confident that the smoke monster from Lost was now inside my lungs, I wanted to drive home as quickly as possibly. Obviously a horrible decision while intoxicated in any way, but it was a day full of horrible decisions, so why stop there? After about a mile, I had a decision to make, and one that pretty well summed up my suburban white guy jackass existence. I’d planned to go to Whole Foods after my trip down 420 lane, but now I was worried that I might be too high to buy organic produce and vegetarian burritos. On the one hand, I was already perhaps higher than I’d ever been, and the hash had only been in my system for about 10 minutes. On the other hand, I really like vegetarian burritos. I decided the $4 oranges could wait for another day, which was probably the first smart thing I did all day. Because if I had made it to the store there is no question in my mind that I would’ve been arrested, and ended up in the Emergency Room. I was already approaching 50% insane, and by the time I slammed my front door behind me, I was all the way up to 100.
In troubling times, many people choose a mantra to calm them down, make them feel more serene. But as the full wallop of the 420 hash started to hit me, all I could say was “Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no,” over and over. My heart was racing, my mind wouldn’t stop panicking, and I couldn’t feel my legs. I started pacing in a circle, chain smoking cigarettes, and muttering to myself hysterically. Imagine how that little routine would’ve gone over in the Whole Foods frozen section. “Excuse me sir, can I help you find something?” “Yes. I need a bathtub full of ice, 300 diet cokes, and a Looney Tunes marathon, stat! Also… AHHHH!” I immediately feared I was having a heart attack, because it was beating faster than ever before, and in my altered state I figured something in my body had broken and I would never breath normally again. Fun holiday, right? I had never done cocaine, because again, total wuss, but it felt like what I would imagine cocaine would be. If cocaine was the worst thing ever. I decided the best course of action would be to do what one does when they’ve had too much to drink: make myself puke. The only problem with puking though, aside from its complete inability to make someone less high, is that I wasn’t nauseous. With alcohol, your stomach is already fully in favor of evacuating the Jaeger shots and getting on with the rest of your life, so it’s no biggee. Not with dope, though. With pot, you stick your finger down your throat and instead of the “Yippee!” you normally get from a drunk tummy, what I actually got was “Hey jackass, please get your finger out of your goddamned throat.” Over and over and over. Which is, to say the least, unpleasant. Worried my body was overheating, I turned on a cold shower, and dunked my head under the water, fully clothed. After regaining some strength, I would swivel back to the toilet and try to puke again. Then to the shower, then to the toilet. Shower, toilet, shower, toilet. It was like the most disgusting conveyor belt ever invented, but I thought it was the only chance I had to avoid calling an ambulance. And if that sentence doesn’t make for a fantastic promotional slogan for 420 day, I don’t know what does.
After stomping out of the bathroom soaked in saliva and cold water, I faced facts that I needed help and called my doctor sister. It was humiliating, but necessary. She told me everything would be OK, but there wasn’t much to be done until the drugs wore off. Then my brother called, who lived close by, and was so worried by my tone that he left a dinner party to bring me home and be kept under observation. After about 8 hours I came down from feeling hysterically, terrifyingly high, and instead was now just higher than I’d ever been. And that lasted… for another 48 hours. Yeah, that’s right, I got so high on 4/20 that it lasted all the way to 4/22. And 4/23, incidentally, was spent with the worst hangover of my entire life. So let that be a lesson to you on this preposterous holiday, kids. Have fun, but not the fun that comes in the form of an amber waxy goo, or really anything you’ve never tried before. Because getting as high as you’ve ever been really isn’t as pleasant as it sounds.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find some medicated sheet cake. 430 forever!