I got the idea from two sources: 1. the chapter on marijuana in Michael Pollan's fabulous The Botany of Desire, and 2. something that was said at a meeting I was at, down in Arivaca a while back. (For you newcomers: Arivaca, 40 miles southwest of here and too blessedly out of the way to have been developed, is traditionally regarded as a den of old-hippie drug smugglers. Plus ranchers and birders. That's SoAz for you.) The meeting was about environmental damage by the Border Patrol, but, as public meetings often do, it veered wildly from time to time. At one point, an aging woman with long, straight hair said indignantly that, speaking of the misuse of public lands, marijuana growers in California had plantations all through the national forests, and "it's decimating the local marijuana economy."
She was perfectly unselfconscious.
What a story. Right?
But how was I to find these folks? I asked some younger people of my acquaintance, all of whom gave me odd looks and quickly claimed to have no idea. I asked an old friend who used to be a serious and unapologetic stoner, but it seems he's given it up. Intrepid journalist that I am, I suppose I could have wandered down to one of those grim little parks near Fourth Avenue or downtown and approached the guys who hang around all day, but I figured they'd just be low-level dealers, or, quite possibly, cops. How was I to get access to my elusive subjects?
The Internet, of course. How else does one find anything these days?
Turns out there are a bunch of sites devoted to everything cannabis: seed auctions, advice on growing, reviews (very solemn), news and lots of (heh, heh) chat. (I've read in the paper that you can buy marijuana online, but, once again, I was too dumb and clueless to figure out where.) The hundreds of regulars on the forums range from gentle medical-use breeders on a quest for the ultimate analgesic to guys who, however old they may be, never left behind either the (heh, heh) '60s or late adolescence. They make you realize just how authentic Cheech and Chong really were.
Everyone, however, is paranoid. I don't know whether it's the actual persecution or the weed that does it, but these are very security-minded folk.
My challenge, then, was to convince a few people, at least, that I was who I said I was, so that they would talk to me anonymously about their doings. I could understand their worries, but everybody wants to be famous, even if it's under a username, right? So the other night, I registered on the forum and posted a message stating who I was and what I wanted to do, and included a link to the Weekly for anyone who wanted to check my bona fides.
All hell broke loose. First, I got a post from a guy who wondered whether anyone would be interested in such a story, then, seconds later, another from someone who couldn't believe that a journalist would even suggest visiting a grow. While responding to those--yes, it's fascinating; hey, I could wear a blindfold on the way there--a user with an unforgettably disgusting "nic" showed up and started blasting away. (Nasty and possibly mythical products of human physiology are popular as usernames among some of the more sarcastic members.)
Why would I want to draw attention to the site? It was like putting out a bulletin saying "bust here." (Was he aware that the site was on the Internet and searchable under "marijuana"?)
Wait, I was probably Leo (law enforcement) myself! (Oh, right. The government is that tricky.)
Aha! Mr. Body Product had checked the Weekly's software, and although it's perfectly standard, it can store addresses. (Everyone who visits the pot site is advised to get a floating address someplace like Yahoo! And the Weekly exists to entrap marijuana growers--most of whom are in Canada? Hello?)
No, don't even click on that link! It could tip THEM off!
I was trying to refute all this as it dawned on me that anything I said, in any tone, would be construed as further proof that I was a narc.
Then I was locked out: My username was invalid! I'd been shunned.
The funny thing was how hurt I felt. Still feel, actually. How could anyone think that I, I, could be a rat?! A DEA stooge, of all things? Couldn't they look in my eyes, hear my voice and know that I was sincere?
And I realized that the Internet had messed with my mind as surely as any weed could ever do. There ought to be a law.