In 1984, I sold an ounce of commercial Jamaican brick weed to one of the rich kids at my high school. It was only my second weed deal. I was 16 and more than a little nervous. I went to school in a conservative town just south of Washington, D.C., called Alexandria, Virginia. This particular fellow was from a Republican family and was wearing a Ronald Reagan button upon meeting me for the deal. I was afraid he was going to snitch me out, so I had to be careful. I asked questions before I agreed to sell him the weed. Why was he buying weed from me? Who was he going to share it with? Where does he intend to smoke it, and most importantly, what was his plan for not getting caught with my weed?
His answers were satisfactory enough for me to determine he was not a snitch, but I still hesitated to sell him the weed. I was appalled that a kid who loved Ronald Reagan wanted my ganja. How could any weed smoker support that man? How did I get face to face with this and what should I do? These questions swirled around in my mind until I suggested we smoke a joint to sample the quality of the ganja. I wanted to test his commitment and I needed a moment to sort all this out. He eagerly agreed and after we both got stoned, I flat out asked him about his Reagan button. He mumbled something about his parents donating money to Reagan so he had to wear the thing. He could care less about Reagan or politics, he just wanted to party. I knew this was only partly true but carried on.
As I took a deep inhale of that sweet Jamaican leaf, I noticed that the weed-smoking son was a step ahead of the parents—even if it was not much of a step ahead, at least he was smoking cannabis—and upon exhale I decided to sell him the bag of Jamaican. I am happy to report I sold him plenty of weed until we both graduated and we never got caught. I did get to know him over time and we often argued about politics while smoking the test joint before our transactions. Sometimes I persuaded him he was wrong, and sometimes he got me thinking about conservative ideas differently. We never did agree on much, but we had no choice other than trust one another to avoid getting busted. And I learned that a few joints can go a long way towards bringing different types of people together.
Thirty-seven years later, I find myself working with a lot of conservative Republicans to assist them with their cannabis ventures. Most of these entrepreneurs are successful business people in other industries. Some just want to do this to make money, but others have a personal connection to the healing powers of cannabis and want to offer this remedy to others in their community. Still others know friends who have gotten into cannabis and are doing well or are having a blast in the space. The reasons vary for jumping in, but they all find their way to my inbox somehow.
These folks do their due diligence on me before they call, and they know my political views are different from their own—but they still hire me. And I work with them because I know that the cannabis plant is smarter than any of us, and if I just get her into the hands of as many people as I can, she will do the rest of the work for me. My views have certainly evolved since my high school years but the central premise that cannabis can transcend political affiliations and bring people together has not.
I’m still working with that premise in mind and all these years later, after all these fights to legalize weed have been won, I’m in the trenches building businesses with people whose politics don’t align with my own. Yet we just focus on the task at hand and build the business. Over time, we see past the differences to a place of mutual respect and a shared goal of bringing cannabis out of the shadows and into the light. And we can all feel that we are transcending our differences in some small way. I’m not sure I can change the politics of my clients or they can change mine, but I learn every day that we don’t have to. All we have to do is build together to bring cannabis to the people. And if we build together, that act of creation will also transcend political differences, and maybe we can all get over it and be Americans again.