epicenter, north coast comedy, napa sonoma california

Hold the Toke—Taking a pass on passing a smoke

TOGETHER AGAIN Some weed relationships survived lockdown. But the weed circle was gone. Photo by Rineshkumar Ghirao

The very last weekend before Covid struck, I shared a vape pen with a bunch of dads at a hockey game. Imagine that. Back then, circling up with a mix of people in a mix of places was one of the great joys of social life.

I used to know where to show up—on a Tuesday afternoon in Petaluma, a Wednesday evening in Berkeley, a Friday morning in Sebastopol—to reliably find or start a circle. Sometimes with vapes or pipes. Plenty of blunts. In recent years I’d bring 5-milligram vegan hybrids.

Then in 2020, like everything else, smoking weed with others went online. Which was great. I could smoke with a friend across the country, or even across the world, from the comfort of my living room or workspace.

Intimate, you know. So, some weed relationships survived lockdown. But the weed circle was gone. At least for me.

When we eventually opened up to a pod with two other families, we started to appreciate the benefits of sharing a pipe. Which was great.

Weed was great during lockdown in so many needed ways, but the big missing piece for me has been the circle of loose acquaintances meeting to smoke up.

Voices I might not hear elsewhere, association made from the collective chill, openness to reflection leading to casually speaking the bald truth. A holy experience, a sacred circle. The feel-good, improv hive-mind of a group in the haze of herb smoke.

I have observed that weed huddles have become a space much less dominated by men. Note, that still means man-dominated space, just much-less so. Really, many of my loudest, most passionate conversations in the recent before-times have were led by baked-ass women and queer folk.

So it is worth noting that the most inclusive and accessible space in our society has been lost to us since the start of the pandemic. For a parking lot and almost no money—even store-bought joints are pretty cheap, but who buys in the North Bay?—a group of people, some of whom might even be passersby, talk and connect, and take time together.

Many weed circles emerge from workplaces, just like an alcohol happy hour, and colleagues, competitors and regular customers might be included. Or neighbors, or like-minded activists.

These huddles are where the game plan is often hatched. An art exhibition, collective-action planning, neighborhood barbecues or natural networks of folks banding together, addressing their local needs, reflecting. Being together. Do weed circlers have the capacity for new health standards, so we can bring them back broadly?