Pot is more plentiful and powerful than ever, but low-grade shake still has its fans.
It's morning in America for potheads. More and more states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, studies are finding more and more medicinal uses for it, and the quality of herb is getting stronger by the season. As VICE weed correspondent T. Kid once wrote, "In place of the leafy, stem-filled weed that prevailed decades ago, we now have access to meticulously crafted cannabis flowers tinted white with THC crystals. These days, the weed is prettier, more fragrant, and gets you much, much higher than it ever did before."
This is all well and good, but I prefer shitty weed.
It took me a while to realize this. In college, I lived with some stoners, and we exclusively smoked the stickiest icky we could find, medical-grade delivery-service shit that got me so high I'd turn temporarily illiterate.
I once brought home one of these strains—called Blue Dream or Silver Haze or something flashy—to share with my mother, a cool lady who used to smoke finger-sized doobies as if they cigarettes in the 70s. Like many adults who become parents, she took a decades-long herb hiatus, and wasn't familiar with how the drug had evolved over the years. She wanted to try smoking again, and we shared a joint of my weed. After a puff, she was blown away by the taste and felt good. Two puffs later and I had to carry her upstairs and tuck her in as if I were the parent. To her, a hit from modern weed was akin to a rip from an opium pipe.
Flash-forward a few years, and I can relate to my mom. I like to smoke weed with my friends, meaning we roll up multiple spliffs at once and prefer to continuously be smoking something to keep the conversation going and pass time. I can't do that with medical weed, "headies," "dank kush," or whatever you want to call stuff with upwards of 20 percent THC content.
Though it sounds weird to say it, I feel nostalgic for the weed I'd buy in high school: cheap bags full of forest-green shake that resembled (or might have been) oregano. This stuff is to medical chronic as Budweiser is to whatever microbrew beer bros are drooling over these days; I could chain smoke it all evening long while just maintaining a slight buzz. Whenever I'd express this opinion to heavy smokers, they'd call me a narc, tell me to get a vape, or suggest I purchase a used Sabbath record to jerk off onto. But the more I started asking around, the more stoners I found who felt a similar soft spot for shake. Here's what a variety of weed lovers, who wished to remain anonymous, told me about why they like their pot weak.
Female, age 26
I like shitty weed because I grew up in Africa, where we got shwag and hash. It's a buzz, but not a total "drop you to the floor" high. I like it because it's not so druggy both in affect and culture. I like deseeding and breaking up weed. The community you smoke this stuff with is generally more relaxed, and you don't get that high, knocked out, or the anxiety that the dank shit is guaranteed to give you.
Also, you can smoke weed all day and not feel like a loser (said the pothead).
American weed is too good. I also hate bongs and paraphernalia to smoke weed. I like my joints like I like my women: thin and classy.
Male, age 24
My love for mediocre weed all started when I went to Jamaica on a family trip. The first thing I did when I got there was chat up the bartender at the hotel for some pot. He asked me for a $50 and the next day came through with a giant bag of shit weed—seeds, stems, the whole nine yards. But I loved it. I would smoke so much and be mellow. Plus, I was listening to a bunch of 60s and 70s music on the beach the whole time and felt like I was back in that time period.
Ever since then I've found myself missing shake. Weed these days is honestly just too potent for certain situations. If I'm just gonna smoke and chill by myself or with friends, it's perfectly fine. But the second I have to do something—be out in public, hang with my family, or anything like that—it becomes way too much. So many of the strains these days in California, Colorado, or even here in New York boast that they're anxiety-reducing, but that isn't really the case because they all have really high THC contents. In my opinion, the only way to actually get a really mellow high is to smoke weed with low, low THC content—i.e. shake.
If you want to be a functioning person, then shake or mids is the only way to go. You can smoke as much as you want and not worry. These days, in a high-speed, ADD-rattled society, the last thing people need is to smoke this super hero weed that makes them just stare at their phones and twitch, instead of continue to chill with the homies or continue about their days.
Male, age 30
I don't even smoke weed anymore; it's too crazy. But if my I'm riding in a van through the mountains of Oaxaca and we stop in San Jose del Pacifico, you know that when I buy a big bag of mushrooms that, yeah, I'll take two fat tree branches of the shittiest weed you ever saw for $10. I'll put the seeds in my wallet and give them to my girl when I get back to Mexico City so she can throw them in a pot on her windowsill, and we'll twist up a stupid-big joint on the beach and let it burn. I'll hit it like twice, but that forest smell will sure bring me back, you know? Plus, I used to steal shit mids from my dad that he grew out in the woods somewhere and smoke alone. If I had the choice of smoking a big fat blunt full of mids or a bowl of NYC "heady" weed that costs $60 for a light eighth from some kid on a bike, you know I'd rather smoke that blunt.
Female, age 25
I love shitty weed because that's the kind I grew up with in Warsaw. Polish weed was also full of chemicals, and it'd get you real fucked up. Well, it would give you hangovers, and if you smoked a lot of it you would sometimes hallucinate. It had some seeds in it, and it was really dry and even ashy. We didn't have "good" weed. The bad stuff was just what was available, and everyone was smoking it.
It was real cheap, too, at around 30 polish zlotys [$8) for a "gram," though it was probably less than a gram because no one had scales. It reminds me of growing up in my native country, so now that I live in Berlin, I go out of my way to buy the low-quality stuff that the African migrants sell at Gorlitzer Park in Kreuzberg. It's a way to feel nostalgic while also smoking nonstop without it overwhelming my entire day and feeling like a commitment.
Image via Flickr User Blind Nomad
Male, age 22
It's not that I prefer shitty weed, I just wouldn't waste my time searching for "fiya" if I can easily get weed that's significantly cheaper.
I dealt for so long, and I know there is better weed, but to me it's just gets you high. I don't need weed for medical reasons. I would sell cheap weed for like $25–$30 an eighth, and good stuff around $60. I have a guy who I can get an ounce from for $80. I also have friends who sell that hydro, sticky Cali whatever for $350 an ounce.
If I smoked once a year, I understand splurging. But for people like me who smoke multiple times a day, you're crazy for spending so much on weed that's not that much better. I'm young and broke, so I think of it like wine. Sure, a nice expensive bottle if wine is amazing and pairs well with food. But if I'm just a kid looking to get drunk, which in most situations I am, two-buck chuck does exactly what I need it to.
I hear people who advocate for expensive shit say that cheap weed gives them headaches or other bullshit. To me, that's like people saying they feel shitty if they eat gluten. Yes, you will feel tired and bloated after eating a full pizza.
Americans idolize or idealize Rastafarian culture, especially when it comes to weed—but those dudes smoke some of the worst bush weed you can smoke. Yet they're still happy smoking that weed than most people here who pay shitloads of money for tiny bags of top-shelf product. So my logic is if I get high, I'm happy. Weed is weed.