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Some thoughts from pot-smoking skaters

Surprisingly, a group of young men in L.A. are as ambivalent as the rest of California about legalizing the drug.

November 13, 2012|Gale Holland, Los Angeles Times
  • Surprisingly, a group of young men in L.A. are as ambivalent as the rest of California about legalizing the drug.
Surprisingly, a group of young men in L.A. are as ambivalent as the rest of… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Well, they've finally done it. The potheads will soon be running wild and free in Boulder and Seattle.

By becoming the first states to legalize recreational marijuana last week, Colorado and Washington have jettisoned the whole mishmash of medical marijuana cards and dispensary permits that have tied California up in knots. How did they pull that off ahead of us? We gave the world the Emerald Triangle, not to mention a West Los Angeles skate park some clueless bureaucrat named Stoner Skate Plaza.

Is this the beginning of the end to the second great American Prohibition? Or a fluke?

For answers, I turned to a panel of experts at the Lafayette Skate Park in Westlake. The skater punks were sitting on a park bench beneath the palm trees, smoking blunts and swishers (weed packed into cigar papers) and sipping 40s of malt liquor.

In front of them, other skaters practiced kickflips and popping ollies on ledges, steps and a star-shaped ramp wrapped in concrete. Overhead, dozens of sneakers dangled by their laces from a power line, trophies, they informed me, not of drugs or gangs but of their skating prowess.

The skaters were well aware of Colorado's and Washington's electoral feat. But after the initial cries of "very cool" and "road trip to Colorado" died down, it became clear that the skaters were as ambivalent about throwing our state wide open to the demon weed as the rest of California. Most of them already get their marijuana from dispensaries. They insisted they got their cards for legitimate medical conditions: migraines, insomnia, attention deficit disorder, skating injuries.

Robert, whose bottom lip was pierced with several black beads, said he gets his weed from a homie whose doctor recommended it for pain from a broken arm.

"He wasn't even a smoker," Robert said.

Leslie, in dreadlocks and a charcoal hoodie, said he didn't bother renewing his card this year because he also has a friend who shares.

"He smokes me out," he said. "I give him $10 every once in a while."

In the same breath, the skaters admitted their smoking was mostly recreational, a social thing. Marijuana is healthier than tobacco or alcohol — but not if you get addicted, they qualified.

"People stop doing what they normally do and just smoke weed," Kevin said.

The smokers were ages 18 to 21. To a man, they said they'd never help a kid get weed.

Well, when did you start? I asked. One after another, they answered. "I was 14." "14." "14."

But they have the same distaste for pushing drugs on children as the next guy.

"Just because I did it, you still have feelings for other people." Kevin said.

Even after I pointed out that the state had decriminalized possession of small amounts, they insisted that most of the people in California prisons were there for marijuana possession. No one but me seemed to be worried about putting potheads behind the wheel.

I tried to ask if they'd seen the Cheech and Chong movie in which police find the comics oblivious and stalled on a traffic island in a cloud of smoke? But Michael insisted that weed helped him concentrate while driving.

They would only concede that marijuana can make it more likely that "stupid people do stupid things," like texting while driving.

"Smoking just makes it easier for that person to get distracted," Leslie said.

As we spoke, one of the skaters tried to grab a little candy away from his friend. The friend pulled it away.

"You won't let me have a piece of your Snickers, but you let me hit your blunt the other day?" said the would-be moocher. Apparently, his friend prized his Halloween haul more than his stash of weed.

Several skaters said legalization would be a bonanza for the economy. Even more than at the end of Prohibition in the 1920s, they said — because hemp can be made into clothing, ropes and other products.

"It can go into mass agriculture and create even more jobs. Not just for the owners of dispensaries, but those that trim it and process it," Josh said.

Well, then, you must be hoping California follows Colorado and Washington soon? I asked. Well, not exactly.

Terry, 15, said he's sober and staying that way. "I don't want to ruin my career skating," he said.

The sentiment is not surprising coming from an abstainer. But even committed stoners have reservations. "It kind of takes the fun away a little bit," said Ronnell. "When it was deemed illegal, it was like, 'Ooh, I want to do it.' Now it's just like drinks."

Sonny said he's all for private pot smoking. But let's be a little discreet.

"When people want to throw a huge pot festival in the street, it's too extreme," he said. And besides, it's only nominally forbidden now.

"It's only illegal when you get caught," he said.

Robert said we should legalize weed for the sake of the cops, "so they don't have to trip about it anymore."

As we said goodbye, Michael noticed my bandaged hand, cut in a kitchen accident. "Marijuana would help you a lot with the pain," he counseled. "Yeah, really. Try it."

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