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It’s 7am on a blustery Tuesday. I’m in peak flare and I can’t stop throwing up. I don’t want to go to the hospital—they can’t do anything for me anyway, this is just my Crohn’s and Fibro acting exactly like they do. I made the mistake of trying to clean and now can’t make it upstairs to bed by myself and have to wait. My husband, who works a night shift, is racing home with something he thinks will help.
The front door swings open so fast the dog doesn’t even have time to bark.
“She’s in here; hey baby.” Zaine pushes my hair out of my face and grabs a rag to help me wipe the vomit off my mouth before disappearing into the kitchen.
I’m embarrassed that Jay is here; I smell like vomit and diarrhea, my hair is a mess, my clothes are gross, and I’m too sick to play hostess, though I try anyway.
My voice is raspy from bile, and I’m trying to fix my clothes while I sit up, “Do you want something to drink? So sorry about the me—” I stop when I realize Jay is lost in his own world, setting up his dab rig on my coffee table.
Zaine sets a cup of water on the table next to me, his hand rubbing my back “Jay is going to dab with you. He says this will help, and I trust him. Just relax honey, you don't have to do anything; he works with sick people all day, he understands.” I tense a little, but take comfort in the fact that I don’t have to be polite about my sickness.
For those of you who don’t know what a dab rig is: it’s a lot like a bong with a special bowl piece called a “banger nail” that you heat with a torch. The banger we were using was made of quartz, so it gets really hot with minimal damage—unlike glass. You use a dab rig to smoke high concentrated wax (sometimes called dab or shatter). Picture: thick, golden, sticky sap that you have to use special tools to pick up.
My husband closes the blinds, turning on a light. Jay is a real quiet guy when he doesn’t know you; so we sat in relative silence while he worked. He worked a little bit of the dab onto the end of a metal dental-looking tool (ubiquitously referred to as a dab tool).
He clicked the torch on and the sound makes me jump. He heats the nail until it’s red hot. He turns to me, “Okay, so I’ll do this one first, and show you how, then I’ll give you one.”
Jay waits for the banger to cool slightly, then puts in the wax, taking the hit, and holding it for a few seconds before exhaling; a plume of smoke filling the small space. The light filtering in from the closed blinds makes Jay look mystical–like the human embodiment of a dragon.
“Okay, now you.” He sets the rig in my lap with all the care of an older brother, turning on the torch. He clears his throat,“Stuck in slow, or you’ll take too much at once and run out of breath, and you'll cough. Don’t touch the banger itself; it's super hot.” He puts a fraction of the wax he just took on the tip of the tool and heats the banger again.
I’m not as graceful, and I’m eternally thankful I was wearing a Depends because I peed myself coughing. It was much harsher than I was use to with a pungent butane flavor. Wax can clock in at a whopping 60 to 90% THC, so it doesn’t take much to become profoundly high. It wasn’t two minutes after I took that first hit that I began to feel it. It was like a dose of morphine and my whole body slumped, relaxing. The pain in my stomach vanished, the pain in my body vanished.
I was very stoned, and it was glorious.
Zaine and Jay have been trying to talk to me for the past few minutes and I’m not even listening. I hear my husband laughing and the faint click of Jay's torch, but they’re far away. I remember the rig making back into my lap, and taking another hit, but not much else.
Zaine tries to pay Jay for the dab but he declines. “Just call me when it gets bad again, I’m right up the road.” He waves before walking home.
According to my husband, I make it up the stairs, manage to drink water and sleep for 14 hours. I was up the next day walking, talking, and working on the house like I hadn’t had a flare in months.
This is just one example of someone who has used cannabis recreationally long before it was legal, extending such kindness in my time of need. I can’t count how many times I’ve been given cannabis for free when I was hurting and broke, or was invited to smoke with a group of caring individuals while sick. People have come in the weather to help me out with nothing but a rain jacket and a baggie, while I had nothing to offer in return but company and tea.
That’s why it’s so infuriating that the chronic illness community continues to berate non-medical users of cannabis as “burnouts” or “stoners” who “get in the way of patients.” I hate it when I’m talking about an experience I had and mention non-medical users and their nose goes right in the air. There is a silent contempt for anything “stoner.”
Excuse me: Respect Your Architects.
We have the amazing strains that we do because of bootleg growers hiding in basements, closets, and in the woods.
We have concentrates like wax/dab because of guys in their basements messing around with dangerous chemicals, trying to make things work.
You have topicals/creams because of old women who grew small illicit backyard farms and passed recipes down, that would mix them up in their kitchens to use, give to family and friends or sell under the table.
You have the variety of edibles because of people screwing around in their kitchens with the blinds drawn.
We have medical cannabis because of individuals with medical conditions that took their health into their own hands while society labeled them “druggies” and threw a bunch of them in jail.
We have legal cannabis as the result of a decades-long campaign for legalization and the activists who fought whole lifetimes for its decriminalization.
This is a very interesting time for cannabis as a medicine and a commercial industry. With the number of states expected to legalize medical and recreational cannabis on the rise—we’re going to see more culture clashing that will have to work itself out; I only hope that us as a community of sick and marginalized individuals, won’t shut the door on the people who made it possible to get medical cannabis in the first place.