A friend offered a marijuana cookie from one of the local shops. I thought about it and said, “Does it have gluten?”
Woodshed Kings: Cruise ship parents, talk with your children about marijuana 082317 AE 1 For the Capital City Weekly A friend offered a marijuana cookie from one of the local shops. I thought about it and said, “Does it have gluten?”

Inside a Juneau weed store. Photo by Dick Callahan.

Sign outside a Juneau weed store. Photo by Dick Callahan.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Story last updated at 8/24/2017 - 2:27 pm

Woodshed Kings: Cruise ship parents, talk with your children about marijuana

Awash in vitamin D the whole town was out making the most of that lovely two week sun break in this rainiest of summers. Here at Woodshed Manor, between biking, rowing and barbecued sockeyes on the back deck, the major maintenance projects managed to get done but three days at the end, up on tall ladders painting the weather side of the house, left me pretty gimped-out with the old arthritis. A friend offered a marijuana cookie from one of the local shops. I thought about it and said, “Does it have gluten?”

Yep, I’m one of those obnoxious people trying that gluten free diet on for size. Marijuana edibles from the shops, in addition to listing the precise THC content per serving, show the ingredients on the side. I declined the cookie because of wheat. Cannabis, though, seemed like a good idea so, after convincing myself that looking for gluten free weed products is no more ridiculous than looking for gluten free beer at the liquor store (Omission IPA—‘bold and hoppy’), off I went to visit each of Juneau’s three legal marijuana businesses.*

All the shops are orderly, clean and brightly lit. The employees are intelligent and passionate about cannabis products and issues. Cruise ship travelers in my age cohort are well represented among the customers. In one of the shops there was a constant stream of 60-somethings coming and going. Some bought weed, some looked liked they wanted to buy weed but weren’t sure after a lifetime of drug war propaganda, and some just giggled at their own audacity of taking selfies with the plant that could get them prison time in their state back home. One lady asked incredulously, “Is this ah…real?”

An Out of Towner’s guide to buying pot

Every shop checks everyone’s ID every time, even the 80-somethings. It’s nothing personal. Alaska law requires the shop to check.

After showing your ID you look around at what they’ve got. Some sell pipes, pot post cards, vaporizers, T-shirts etc. The actual cannabis will be at the desk with an employee, aka ‘the Budtender.’ There are a lot of boutique pot strains with interesting names so, if you’re unsure, tell the clerk what experience you’re looking for. In my case, in order: 1) high in CBD (pot has a number of chemical compounds besides the one that gets you stoned. The pain reliever Cannabidiol—CBD—is one of those.) 2) low to medium THC (the cannabinoid that gets you stoned). 3) organic. 4) gluten free.

The clerks can tell you which of their products is closest to what you’re after. On #3 though, they can’t tell you their product is organic even if it is because the US Department of Agriculture and the EPA set the standards for what ‘organic’ means for all agricultural commodities except marijuana. Until the Feds legalize it and set standards, pot sellers can say something like, “It was grown only with organic fertilizers and organic pest control.” Which tells you what you want to know.

Next you’ve got to decide how much to buy. In addition to edibles, pot is sold by weight (about $25 per gram) either loose in a small container, as pre-rolled joints, or as a more potent and expensive concentrate. If you haven’t bought any since Nancy Reagan told you not to, here are some things to consider. Government claims that pot is hundreds of times stronger now than it used to be are much exaggerated. Hundreds of times stronger than Maui Wowie, Panama Red or Thai stick? I think not. That said, back in the day there was no quality control. We had a lot of weak pot, with seeds, stems and sometimes just industrial hemp leaves. With legalization in Alaska, growers are required to have their crops tested for THC content. This means you know exactly how much you’re getting. If you aren’t clear what the numbers mean you can ask the employee for general guidance with an emphasis on the word ‘general.’ Everyone is different. If you haven’t been stoned in decades and someone says the pot is strong, believe them. Take just a little and see how it goes. Edibles kick in more slowly than smoking and can sneak up on you so give edibles an hour.

As to risk assessment, last month, after thousands of years of no one dying from a marijuana overdose, the Drug Enforcement Agency, in its 2017 Drugs of Abuse Resource Guide, admitted, “No deaths from overdose of marijuana have been reported.” None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Attached to their usual raft of dire cannabis warnings this year, the DEA includes (I kid you not): merriment, happiness, relaxation, increased sociability, increased sensory perception giving rise to increased appreciation of music, art, and touch, and heightened imagination. Bottom line, take it easy. Unless you’re sure of a good outcome don’t mix pot with alcohol or other drugs. If you’re on serious medications it’s common sense to ask the doctor before adding cannabis.

Cash only is the payment plan at marijuana shops. Again, because of the Federal government which doesn’t recognize legal pot, the shops can’t take checks or credit cards. One shop has an ATM.

How pot comes to the Juneau market

Our three pot shops grow weed locally and also bring in cannabis products from elsewhere in the state. For local growers it’s a matter of having their crops tested for THC levels at a certified lab. Here is the drill for bringing in the goods from elsewhere, as described by one of the shop employees. They place an order, generally two weeks in advance. Two employees fly to the grower up north, they pick up their order along with a manifest of everything they’re buying. They go to the airport very early because they know it’s going to be a long process. They greet the people at TSA, tell them what they’ve got in their bags and show them the manifest. For the next hour or so, three to four TSA agents do a private screening of their stuff including a bomb swipe of each and every individual item. Then TSA calls the local police. It’s awkward. TSA is a Federal entity. The Feds still consider pot illegal but TSA doesn’t have enforcement authority for this sort of thing so the local police come to the airport, look at the manifest, then walk with the shop employees through security so they can get on the plane.

A lot of people who come to town are curious about what effects marijuana legalization has had here. In a nutshell, people still hike, garden, split wood, put up fish, and go to work. Those who smoked pot before legalization smoke pot now. Most people who didn’t smoke still don’t. The government makes some tax money but not as much as they’d hoped. Market share for street dealers is down. A growing group of people is gainfully employed. The police are able to put their time and energies into serious crimes — except for the drug sniffing dogs. They couldn’t be retrained to not alert for cannabis so they retired to hang out and play frisbee like other dogs. Beyond that not much has changed.

Shout outs

Thanks to Governor Bill Walker for standing with the other western state governors who are trying patiently to explain to US Attorney General Jeff “Good people don’t smoke marijuana” Sessions, how democracy works.

After eighty years of marijuana prohibition, a Marist poll in April of this year found that more than half of American adults have smoked marijuana. This in spite of over 25 million arrests since I graduated high school. Over 25 million is about equal to the populations of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia combined.

I respect the people of our state for voting to put a stop to marijuana arrests here. I respect the growers and cannabis business owners for sticking with all the regulatory meetings and taking on not only the usual risks all business owners face, but also the risk of being made a test legal case by the Federal government.

Also, I respect you cruise ship visitors who screw up the courage to walk through a pot shop door and see things for yourself. I hope that picture of you smiling in front of ‘real marijuana’ will encourage a dialog with your friends and family about where you want cannabis legislation in your home state to go from here. And finally, if you found some of those gluten free edibles from Juneau’s cannabis shops I hope they increase merriment, happiness, relaxation, and take the edge off your aches and pains.

*The Fireweed Factory on Front Street, Rainforest Farms on Second Street, and The Green Elephant on Mill Street