100_0218 taste of home 2 sized.jpg
This is what $110 an ounce gets you in Alabama.
? For the fourth time in as many days, I steer up the steep, dusty

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That 'Bama Weed: Looking for Relief in the Deep South

After years of becoming accustomed to getting my legal medicinal cannabis from dispensaries in Washington, it feels faintly ridiculous to revert to the black market. But nausea and pain from hepatitis C are strong motivators, which get stronger every day unless I use cannabis. Dignity semi-intact, here I am looking for the remedy.

100_0218 taste of home 2 sized.jpg
This is what $110 an ounce gets you in Alabama.
?For the fourth time in as many days, I steer up the steep, dusty driveway and see the same surly hounds, with ribs protruding and a dangerous glint in their eyes. I close the car door and walk briskly to the front of the house in the 100-degree heat, hoping I don't get nipped on the heels again, as I did yesterday.

When Kevin (not his real name) answers the door with a smile on his face, I know he must have good news. Yes, he saw "the guy," and yes, he was able to hook me up.

I'm not buying illicit narcotics--at least not by my definition, since I'm not looking for hard drugs like meth, coke, or heroin. I'm just trying to find some of the herbal medication recommended by my doctor back in Washington--which always seems to work, but isn't recognized as medicine here in Alabama, where I'm visiting family.

After years of becoming accustomed to getting my legal medicinal cannabis from dispensaries in Washington, it feels faintly ridiculous to revert to the black market. But nausea and pain from hepatitis C are strong motivators, which get stronger every day unless I use cannabis. Dignity semi-intact, here I am looking for the remedy.

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These young sativa buds were harvested a good three weeks before their peak.
?There's only one no-name strain to pick from, but at least it's not the brick Mexican schwag. The cannabis is $110 an ounce. That's less than half the typical dispensary price in Seattle, but it's also about half the quality too.

By the look of them, the buds appear to be a young sativa, harvested a good three weeks before their peak. As such, they provide a clear-headed, if muted, effect, and thankfully relieve the nausea, although only after I smoke almost an entire joint.

Unfortunately, my pain goes largely unaddressed by the unnamed strain. Back in Seattle, if faced with the same scenario, I'd pick a strong indica like L.A. Confidential or Hog to find relief. But since no other options are available, it's one strain or nothing, and I have to carefully augment it with over-the-counter painkillers (none of which do my challenged liver any favors).

That's the way it still is in Alabama, and that's the way it's been since the 1970s when pot became popular and  swept the state. But the week after my four-day quest to find marijuana, I met with a group of activists who believe they'll make the Heart of Dixie the first state in the Deep South to allow the medicinal use of cannabis.

At their inaugural meeting, the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition and I discussed strategy. Co-presidents Chris Butts and Ron Crumpton don't just talk the talk--both men have lobbied extensively in the Alabama Legislature and are starting to tap into the old-boy network that is still necessary to get anything done in Alabama politics.

Ron, 44, treated back pain related to spinal stenosis with prescribed NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) until they damaged his stomach so badly that last year one-third of it had to be removed. Having experienced the physical devastation that harsh pharmaceuticals can bring, he's now willing to risk Alabama's harsh pot laws and the black market to get the only relief that doesn't make him even sicker.

Ron had the opportunity to testify before a legislative committee last session. "I smoke four one-gram joints a day," he told the lawmakers. "If you want to make me stop, you'll have to come get me."

Steve Elliott edits Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media's site of cannabis news, views, rumor, and humor.


Toke Signals wants to review your dispensary. E-mail tokesignals@seattleweekly.com.

 
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