The Cannabis Closet: Safe Havens


by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

I think living in Manhattan has warped my view of how others view pot. I can get it anytime I want. They deliver the stuff here (granted, at a HUGE markup, but still). You can also smoke on the street with relative impunity. Often I will be walking around and have the sweet, musty smell of pot enter my nose. I always look around to see if I can identify the culprit, but I never can. Ironically, smoking weed in a crowded public place is probably the safest place to do it. In fact, wondering the streets of Manhattan or Brooklyn with a spliff in my hand is one of my favorite activities and I have almost zero worries about getting caught (being middle class and white doesn't hurt).

Another writes:

I am a late 20s casual user, college and law school graduate, working as an attorney, in a healthy relationship, stay fit, run a small business, etc. I live in Portland, Oregon, so pot use is pretty much accepted here. Once someone gets past the level of a casual acquaintance, it's usually okay to tell them about it, and more often than not they indulge, or have in the past.


A few years ago, some friends and I were passing a joint in an alley behind a bar in downtown Vancouver, BC, when we were suddenly caught by surprise by the police. The officers gave us a stern lecture, confiscated our pot and let us go.


I have, but I don't. Doesn't really agree with me. It doesn't bother me as long as the smell isn't imposed upon me; although I'd like it if the laws here were tweaked enough so that driving while smoking a joint was reason enough for a cop to pull you over and write you a ticket, which it doesn't seem to be in Vancouver. Impairment is impairment.


Ann Arbor has some of the laxest laws regarding marijuana in the country; 25 dollar first offense, then 50, then 100 for all subsequent offenses. An the city police don't even really try to enforce these laws. But because the annual Hash Bash is on campus and thus on state property, anyone exercising their right to civil disobedience can be fined thousands of dollars and face jail time.

This is fucked up. Excuse my language but this really does make me angry, especially after the story of Derek Copps. The fact that by moving over some invisible line I go from being a mellow kid just looking to relax to a criminal worth prosecuting is beyond ridiculous. I smoke weed. I enjoy smoking weed. It's one of God's plants. I smoke weed while attending college and still get very good grades. These laws need to be changed. They need to be changed now.


There are now marijuana dispensaries all over LA. Every day I pass on my way to the gym that has a big neon marijuana leaf in the window. Another just opened behind my apartment building. It faces La Brea Blvd, across the street from Pink’s Hot Dog stand where it’s clearly visible to the huge crowd standing in line 24/7. It’s the sheer normalcy of these shops that forces the issue.


I live in Boulder, CO and there is no closet here. People just assume that you smoke pot. And the police don't care about it unless you are a big time grower. Possession of an ounce or under is $15 fine, and they'll plead down to that if you have less than a quarter pound. We smoke joints openly in public, and the cops usually won't even ask us to put it out if the see us doing it. I've smoked pot with a cop. In public.

So here's my favorite story: I was contracting for a computer company based in Texas. After two months, my client came to me and said that the corporate headquarters were demanding that all contractors take a drug test. And he said: "But you can't pass a drug test, can you?" "Certainly not," I replied. And he came back with "Okay, I'll take care of it." He hired someone to take the test for me so I could continue to work there. But he screwed up. Turns out, I was pregnant. Which is pretty funny because I'm a man. But strangely, the corporate headquarters didn't notice that issue, and everything was fine.

Welcome to Boulder. I guess it is I that live on another planet. But it's a good one, trust me.


While attending a private college in northwestern Massachusetts, my classmates and I smoked frequently and, for the most part, freely. Don't know if the percentage of smokers is higher now than it was then, but the notion that the school or community law enforcement would pursue pot offenses on campus was unheard of. My biggest surprise was when my girlfriend and I were ejected from a campus concert (R.E.M. as a matter of fact) because we lit up a joint. We refused even to believe it, but the security guard said he was serious, and kicked us out. We later snuck back in. In our dorms we had massive bong-a-thons. Again, I don't know about the prevalence of pot-smoking in schools then versus now, but the relative laxity toward it in those days (ironically, the early Reagan years) is undeniable.