Illustration by Eric Mast

Flying Straight at the High Holiday Bash

Who: Chris Stamm
What: NW Cannabis Classic High Holiday Bash
When: Sunday, December 6, 2015
Where: Pure Space, Portland, OR
Why: Weed
How: Weed

1I smell Pure Space (“an urban venue in the Pearl”) from a block away. An unmistakable whiff: weed. A great lede, I think. I make a mental note: open with brief account of pot reek besmirching the Pearl District’s condo efflorescence. The bright idea dims when I see a cloud of smoke engulf the hooded head of a fellow pedestrian. It’s his joint I smell. A decent lede. I follow it to Pure Space, where the NW Cannabis Classic High Holiday Bash is already underway.

2I navigate a ticketing scrum that a scofflaw would have no trouble cracking. Security is present. Wristbands are checked. But I spot vulnerabilities. I bought my ticket a week ago. It cost twenty-five dollars. I could have skipped the ticket and squirmed in with a smile and a shrug. But this is the uncouth daydream of an upstanding ticket-holder. I’d never. And anyway: Pot Dads is reimbursing the entry fee. No worries.

3I will not be consuming cannabis while on assignment. Being stoned around strangers is nightmarish for me. There are approximately 200 people in Pure Space right now. I imagine a pot-triggered panic attack that lasts for weeks. I imagine a Pot Dads dispatch stripped of vowels in order to evoke my descent into darkness. I imagine my daughter imagining what it would have been like to have a father who did not scream in terror at all hours. I will stay sober here.

4The High Holiday Bash is a two-story affair. Ground level: booths hawk weed-centric innovations. Pipe-friendly ashtrays tricked out with rubber half-domes against which one may tap glassware. “The Toker Poker,” which does quadruple duty as a poker, hemp wick, tamper and lighter. A giant block of ice that is also a pipe. I touch it. It is cold. It’s not all outré pottery down here, though. Earthly concerns are also present: soil merchants, fertilizer specialists, insurance salespeople. And then there’s “the world’s first portable cannabis analyzer,” which is not a man with a couch and a God complex, but a rig that uses “lightwave software” to measure the potency of cannabis. “Lightwave software.” The words are almost enough to get me high.

5Everyone here is very stoned. A veteran of such soirees briefed me yesterday. “Everyone will be very stoned,” she said. Her prediction didn’t quite jibe with my impression of a cannabis industry gone straight — or at least straight enough to play a mean game of respectability politics — but she was right. Fuzzy bliss is the dominant vibe. It’s not getting in the way of business, though. Curious attendees pay close attention to vendor spiels. Virtual associates meet in meat space for firm handshakes. Cash flows booth-ward. And it becomes apparent that respectability will never be a problem for this industry. Everyone here is happy. Everyone here is polite. The drunken aggression that taints the bonhomie of a beer festival is nowhere to be found. Stoner quips about a peaceful world of potheads ring true here. The crowd runs the gamut: white folks, black folks, dad folks, mom folks, person-with-dog folks, fleece folks, pot-leaf-as-apotheosis-of-shirt-pattern folks, biker folks, science nerd folks, I-can’t-feel-my-face folks. They’re all getting along. They’re all super high. This is the only advertisement cannabis needs.

6The “tasting village” is upstairs. Dispensaries offer free samples. Attendees queue for hits prepared by budtenders wearing latex gloves. Everyone is getting stoned. I see a man offer his friend a joint. The friend demurs: “I’m good right now, man.” The friend chuckles. He seems surprised to have found his limit. The tasting booths favor dab rigs, but joints seem to be the delivery system of choice for people smoking their own supply. This is heartening. Cockles warm. I still don’t know how bongs work. That ice pipe boggles the mind. My first joint was rolled in binder paper. The summer before eighth grade. I didn’t get high. The binder paper didn’t burn right. But I like the way joints evoke adolescence. I like the way they evoke cigarettes. I miss cigarettes. Dead roaches decorate the tables up here. I like the way they evoke trash. No, they are actual trash. But trash that hints at a demimonde hiding in the bright new world of legal weed. Joints look illegal. I like that. The people here would probably tell me I shouldn’t like that.

7It occurs to me that I am one of the few lone wolves at the High Holiday Bash. People are here in pairs, groups. Everyone has someone to smoke with. The realization induces mild paranoia. I wonder if I look out of place. Can they tell I’m sober? Is my frantic note-taking making people uncomfortable? Should I stop taking pictures? I’m running through a routine of social anxiety that is remarkably similar to my stoned M.O. I consider the possibility that I have inhaled just enough secondhand smoke to get just high enough to not enjoy being alive around other people.

8I head outside for fresh air. I crouch on the sidewalk. I vape nicotine. I worry about a security guard giving me guff for vaping cannabis in front of Pure Space. The High Holiday Bash program discourages such al fresco consumption. I play a humiliating short film in my brain. It stars me as a nicotine addict explaining his vaping situation to a polite security guard. Vaping is silly. Don’t do it. There is never not shame. My imaginary embarrassment is interrupted by a cab driver. He asks me if I called for a cab. I tell him I did not. He scans his surroundings for his fare. Whoever called him was doing the right thing. No one at the High Holiday Bash should be driving home. Exhibit A: the guy who called the cab and then evidently forgot he called a cab.

9I go back in for another round of reconnaissance. The Ben & Jerry’s booth is doing a brisk business. I wonder why there aren’t more food vendors here. The hungry stoner is an easy mark. It’s an easy cliche, too, but the number of attendees clutching B & J cups only confirms it. The hunger is real. There should be some shitty pizza here. My contact high triggers need. Fun size candy is ubiquitous. Booth enticement and reward. But I don’t trust it. Even though I know it’s safe. It’s wrapped. The wrappers say Snickers. No pot puns. These are legit Snickers. My paranoia cancels reason. Everything here is weed.

TEN: I finally see what I thought I came here to see: a man wearing a Bob Marley shirt. I like it. It feels good when a too-easy joke manifests. But my smug satisfaction dies on impact. The man likes Bob Marley. The man also likes marijuana. Those two interests dovetail in a way that underlines stereotypes. But they also probably really do just go great together. Like a good high and ice cream. Or like a good high and a candy bar. Or like a good high and a good friend. Or like a good high and a stranded cab driver. Or like a good high and a possibly ill-advised purchase of an ice pipe. I don’t know. I’m feeling sentimental. I might be high. I have to leave.


A magazine for people who smoke weed, but not as the defining aspect of their character.

From K. Mike Merrill: I didn’t write this, I’m just publishing it. This is the an article for a new magazine called Pot Dads. Legalization is taking marijuana mainstream and the prevailing culture of weed is going to become boring. At Pot Dads we are excited about an integrated weed lifestyle.

And no, you don’t have to be a Dad to read Pot Dads, it’s just a fun name.

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