Delivery Culture and the Normalization of Marijuana

Fifteen years ago a drunk and high driver smashed into the car that Charles and his wife were traveling in. Charles was badly hurt, had reconstructive surgeries, and continues to have crippling headaches several days a week. Because he has been prescribed many drugs, which often fail over time, he took note when The National Institutes of Health found that marijuana is often more effective for chronic pain than opioids. Charles, who has never smoked much, decided to give it a try.

He lives in Los Angeles, which has what he calls a “delivery culture.” Postmates, for example, allows you to “Get groceries and alcohol delivered in under an hour so you can spend your time living your best life.” Churros, Jamba Juice, Trejo’s coffee and donuts, a handle of vodka are all available—as are Cheetos, Slurpees, a fresh banana, and Trojan condoms from the 7-Eleven. Have a good night. Charles has heard rumors one service will run to the Gap and bring you back a sweater.

But he was still surprised that marijuana is delivered to order in LA, like pizza. He knew the laws for recreational marijuana had changed, but he felt the media had not reported the specific consequences of that, or how easily weed was to get. “If you’re having a dinner party and want to get high,” he says, “you can just place your order and have it delivered for your guests.”

He went to weedmaps.com, a go-to site for distributors, where potential buyers can sort information by recreational or medical use, pickup or delivery. He tried a distributor that seemed to be just an individual or two, who required him to text a phone number to be approved and send a photo of his ID. The process made him uneasy. “They said they had a $50 delivery minimum, but when I tried to order $60 worth of product, I got the feeling they thought the order was too small,” he says. “They ghosted on me after I gave them my license.”

His second try was to Downtown Patient Group Delivery. He felt they were an actual company, and though their website was glitchy, he placed his order easily. He had been prepared to have to find a doctor to support his medical claim and use the medical part of their website, but none of that was necessary. The City of Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation explains on their site: “Buying cannabis (without a valid physician’s recommendation or county-issued medical marijuana identification card) will become legal under California law for adults 21 or older on January 1, 2018.” Charles sent DTPG a pic of his out-of-state license, and there were no questions, perhaps because the delivery was local. They sent professional updates and a cheerful notice when someone would be there in 20 minutes. There was no oversight by the delivery guy, so Charles feels it would be relatively easy for someone who was underage to fake a license and get weed.

Charles hates the smell of smoke, especially marijuana, which he says is everywhere, strongly, in LA these days. He ordered THC-laced gummies instead, which came in three packs of 10 each. This cost $60, plus $13.20 in tax. Delivery was free. The Kushy Punch Edibles came in Sativa (strawberry), Indica (plum), and Hybrid (tropical punch).

As a first-time customer he also received a welcome basket, which contained a little pipe, papers, a lapel pin, a Brass Knuckles sticker, and other things.

“I don’t know what some of this is, to be able to describe it to you,” he says. “A little keychain … maybe to hold a joint? Two drug containers? I don’t know what this purple thing is … it’s a little like an iron maiden made out of plastic. Oh! For crushing buds up, maybe? I’m going to have to learn more about drugs. What’s this? A joint in a container! I can’t believe they gave me a joint! That’s hysterical. I was wondering what the smell was.”

Charles had bought a bell jar to store his candy in, because it still stunk and tasted like marijuana, he says.

He says he ate one gummie, while playing World of Warcraft. There was 10 mg of THC in it, and when nothing happened after 40 minutes, he ate another.

“I should’ve known,” he says. “After a while it hit and I kind of felt out of my mind. I could feel every atom in my body. There were waves of pleasure in my being. Repeating waves of color behind my eyes. Later it felt as if I was not asleep, but I was waking up every hour to feel those atoms as I looked at the clock.

“I was damn-sure pain free for 20 hours afterward,” he says. “So the next day I tried it again. That was a bad trip. I had to keep myself calm during that one, and kept thinking, shit, I may have nine hours of this left. And the pain wasn’t even relieved. That second time put me off it a lot. It was like drinking. I have a life of constant pain, and booze can help, but the repercussions are worse and won’t let me function afterward. For as long as this THC high lasts I won’t even drive to the grocery.”

But Charles has long experience incorporating as many as six prescription headache drugs into his routine—having to learn, for instance, when he can take one that contains caffeine, so he is not awake all night. He has read up on marijuana as both stimulant and depressant, and how its effects can be different for each user. He is still willing to give it a chance, if only because it is so easy to get and so widespread in the culture.