As a kid, I used to smell something strange wafting out of my dad’s ensuite. It was smoky and foul, like a rotting cigar. Whenever I’d ask him what it was, he’d play dumb: it was coming from outside, he’d say. I discovered the truth at age 13, when I saw a few kids smoking pot at a middle-school party and recognized the telltale stench. I confronted my dad. He confessed: he was an upstanding boomer by day, hippie stoner by night. My mom did it, too. My dad told me they smoked weed to alleviate stress, that there were minimal health risks, and that they did it pretty much every day.
The best way to ensure your kid doesn’t do drugs is to do them yourself. My friends thought my parents’ habit was awesome, but to me it seemed sophomoric, like they were desperately trying to be cool. Once I knew about their pot usage, they flaunted it. They’d watch Law and Order in the living room, taking hits from a pipe. They’d pass around one-hitters when they hosted dinner parties. When we’d go to the movies, they’d send me into the theatre to buy tickets while they hotboxed the car, to my eye-rolling horror. “Don’t be such a square,” they’d chide. Whenever my friends smoked a joint, I declined. It smelled like my parents.
Last December, I was chatting with a friend at Toronto Life. We got onto the topic of how I’d never smoked pot and what it would be like if I tried. I thought about it. My pot temperance had been an act of rebellion against my parents, but I’m in my 30s now, I’ve long since stopped caring about my parents’ drug habits, and my job is stressful. I was a little curious. So I asked a friend to buy some weed from his dealer, an unusually customer-focused entrepreneur who explained in great detail the provenance of his strains. There was Afghan Kush, which purportedly delivered relaxation, euphoria and pain relief. There was Haze, a strain that offered a “daytime buzz” and wouldn’t interfere with my job. I chose something called Grapefruit, which was advertised as sweet-tasting and giggle-inducing, with a citrus aroma. I bought three grams. When I told my parents, they practically danced a hora.
Later that week, I made plans with Andrea and Mia, two friends I’ve known since middle school. I showed up at Andrea’s place with a bottle of dry Ontario riesling and my Ziploc full of weed. We chatted about work, gossiped about Mia’s new boyfriend, snacked on a plate of gouda and beemster. Then it was time to rid me of my pot virginity. Mia insisted we use her pipe, since that generated a stronger high than a standard joint. She showed me how to grind the weed and tamp it into the pipe, and how to take a second smaller breath after inhaling to make sure the smoke travelled deep into my lungs. As she lit up, all I could think was that it did not smell like grapefruit—it smelled like my dad.
The first hit felt like acid in my throat, and I coughed it up before I could inhale. I tried a few more hits, holding in the smoke and suffering through the pain for 10 Mississippis. My friends indulged, too, their eyes glazing over. “Oh, yeah, I feel it,” they drawled. I felt nothing. They ordered poutine from Uber Eats, which I didn’t enjoy because I had no munchies. We watched Love Actually, but I couldn’t concentrate because I was so frustrated about why I wasn’t high. I kept taking hits from the pipe, but nothing happened.
I griped to everyone I knew about how the pot didn’t work, and several people told me they didn’t get high the first time they smoked either—including my dad. He suggested I try vaping, then proudly bequeathed the family vaporizer like it was an heirloom. The Magic-Flight Launch Box is a battery-operated model, hand-carved from maple, about the size of a juice box.
The following week, I decided to try again. I went to a small dinner party at Mia’s house in Bloordale. We ate charcuterie, ordered pizza, drank wine. After dinner, I pulled out my Ziploc and ground up my pot like an old pro. The Launch Box heats the pot to a vapour without burning it, making for a much smoother drag. I sucked four long hits from the glass mouthpiece and found it painless. Within three minutes, my fingers started to tingle. My head felt droopy. I suddenly found everything hilarious—when one friend dropped her phone, when another texted me a kitten video, when yet another had pizza on her face (which is objectively hysterical even sober). There was a decorative hourglass on the coffee table and I became obsessed with it, turning it over and over, mesmerized by the trickling pink sand. When I tried to take another hit, I fumbled with the vaporizer. I was without fine motor skills for the duration of a game of Pictionary, where I tried to draw Michael Fassbender’s penis and ended up with an amorphous blob. That was hilarious, too.
After about an hour, the effect wore off, and I was ready for bed. The high was nice if overrated, like low-key drunkery without the slurring, dizziness or hangover. For that hour, I didn’t worry or stress or even think. My parents always say they smoke pot the way most people have a glass of wine after dinner; when I was a kid, I was too much of a goody two-shoes to listen. Now I understand where they’re coming from. I won’t become a regular smoker—the smell still activates my Pavlovian gag reflex—but it’s good to know what all the hubbub is about. I’d consider doing it again. Maybe even with my parents.
*I’ve used pseudonyms for my friends and have kept my name secret to avoid outing my parents as the inveterate stoners they are.