For the Advocate

Weed Utopia is not a specific set of rules for growing weed or government policies. It is a patchwork of places and moments in history when weed has elevated the amount of love between people in the world, often against all odds.

Weed Utopia is present-day Minnesota, where craft breweries can make weed seltzer and sell it in their tap rooms.

Weed Utopia is Mexico, where an ounce of schwag costs less than $20.

Weed Utopia is the fertile hills of western Massachusetts, where Chem Dawg was created, where Lester Grinspoon is a hero, and where underground farmers are still growing bud good enough to embarrass any legal weed store.

Weed Utopia is Greece, where entrepreneurs have been particularly creative since the dawn of recorded history. Tidbit one: Normal Delta-9 THC isn’t the only molecular compound that binds with cannabinoid receptors and gets you high—there are tons of other ones. Tidbit two: Lawmakers around the world are mostly not potheads and therefore generally unaware of this fact, creating some big loopholes. For instance, at almost every gas station or corner store in Greece, you can currently buy flower with HHC, a cannabinoid that can be synthesized from legal low-THC “hemp.” I tried it. It’s normal weed.

Weed Utopia was the Sixties, when smoking “grass” was the symbol of political rebellion for a whole generation.

Weed Utopia was Cambridge, Mass., in my freshman year of college, when my roommate got weekly shipments from Hawaii and dealt to half of the seniors in school, all hours of the night.

Weed Utopia was California until 2017, when there were more than 3,000 legal medical dispensaries of every shape and size, spread across every city in the state, selling great weed at great prices—until 2018 recreational “legalization” put 90% of them out of business, and in their place installed a few hundred bougie Apple-Store contraptions of brushed metal and glass.

Weed Utopia is Tennessee, which legalized recreational weed while nobody noticed by exploiting an even more creative loophole than Greece. First, some shops started openly selling normal weed by claiming that it was actually “THCA” weed and not “Delta-9 THC” weed, and thus is federally legal hemp under the 2018 U.S. farm bill. Next, shops got together and convinced the Tennessee government to write this peculiar interpretation of federal law into state law, including regulations on “THCA” such as a minimum age of 21, a minimum distance from schools, and a modest state weed tax of 6%.

Weed Utopia is Maine, where you can walk a hundred feet in any direction and hit a dispensary.

Weed Utopia was Amsterdam in 2001, my first visit as a pot smoker, where through a bizarre sequence of events, my friends and I ended up with the sample of weed that had just won the Cannabis Cup. Since this was the only weed competition in the only city where weed was legal, we were therefore in possession of the world’s best bag of weed. People from all over the Milky Way nightclub immediately descended on us, and we had to flee the dance party. We gave one menacing guy a nug, escaped, and smoked the rest of it for the next month, all the way to Italy.

Weed Utopia was Oklahoma in 2018, when the first dispensaries opened at 9 a.m. the morning after their state legislature voted to legalize medical weed. (The process that took Oklahoma eight hours took Vermont four and a half years.)

Weed Utopia is the smoke shops of New York, 2023, where, thanks to the virtuous civil disobedience of their brave proprietors, you can buy fairly priced, high-grade California weed on almost any block in any borough, 24 hours per day.

Meanwhile, the last eighth I bought in NYC from one of the city’s few legal “adult-use dispensaries,” for the staggering price of almost $50 before tax, was mostly stems and leaves, a sad sack of high-school-quality shake—you could do better on the sidewalks of Union Square.

Weed Utopia was Colorado on Jan. 1, 2014, which became the first state in the Union to legalize recreational weed in the modern era when its stores opened that morning. I was lucky enough to be there that week, and the lines went down the block to pay $60 or $65 for an eighth.

Weed Utopia is that same state a decade later, along with the other earliest adopters, Washington State and Oregon, where outdoor-grown weed can sell for as little as $200 a pound wholesale. That’s $1.56 per eighth. This is not good news for growers, but it’s great news for the future of the industry as a whole and its competitiveness with illegal weed.

Weed Utopia is Las Vegas, where I was recently lucky enough to be at the world’s largest cannabis industry conference, MJBizCon 2023.

Weed Utopia is Puerto Rico, where medical dispensaries will accept medical prescriptions from any other state in the country, and probably from overseas too. They might even accept a note from your babysitter.

Weed Utopia was Northampton, Mass., in 1991, the first time I ever tried it, in the leaves between the train tracks and Hawley Street.

Weed Utopia was Northampton in 1990, the year before I first tried it, the last sweet hours before the first taste of a later habit.

Weed Utopia is the good works of the past and present mayors of Northampton. First, in November 2018, Mayor David Narkewicz became the first customer at NETA and thus America’s first legal recreational weed customer east of the Mississippi. More recently, in January 2023, Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra championed the righteous (though losing) cause of fighting the proposed cap of 12 dispensaries in Northampton.

Weed Utopia is Sandy Island, on Lake Winnepesaukee, New Hampshire, when I was six years old and my crush was also six, and the strange aromas wafted into our play fort from a nearby tree, and we sailed through the sweetest, most careless moments of our lives.

Weed Utopia was Jamaica in 2008, when I first smoked weed with my parents. We were on a family vacation with my parents, my sister Rosie, my best friend Ben, and his dad and grandpa. Our families hired a fishing boat to take us to a little island. We were halfway there when a pirate boat approached ours. A Rastafari boarded our boat and offered us some local weed at a very fair price (for tourists anyway).

Being right in front of our parents, and having an enormous stockpile of weed back in the house that we had bought from the gardener who we played dominoes with every night, Ben and Rosie and I all politely declined. Then we noticed that my dad had his wallet out, and he was buying a baggie. Rosie and I locked eyes in astonishment. He rolled a joint like a pro, we lit it up and passed it around, and everyone smoked.

Weed Utopia is the moment when I see Rosie after a long time away, and she greets me with the freshest local herbs and the caringest care.

Weed Utopia will be the moment when I get my friend Colette, a faithful anti-drug Christian, to take a puff with me and have one of our great long conversations about Jesus.

Weed Utopia was Disney World in Florida in 2004, where my friend Clare and I were invited to a week-long press junket with food journalists from around the world. We made a full-featured water pipe out of a Mickey Mouse shampoo bottle, the cylinder of a Disney ballpoint pen, and some chewing gum, and we wound up at Cirque de Soleil with some Argentine and Uruguayan food critics, high as hell.

Unfortunately, we forgot to collect the Mickey mini-bong from the table when we checked out. We did not receive any subsequent invitations from Disney’s publicity department.

Weed Utopia was New Haven, Connecticut, the most underrated city in New England, in 2000, where all my best friendships in law school were formed by passing around bongs.

Weed Utopia was Pasadena in 2012, the first time I ever really fell in love. It was with a girl named Hanami, and what we shared was weed.