Reefer Mainstream

Thousands of Arizonans smoke marijuana. Get over it.

"A lot of people use marijuana, and it really doesn't have any negative effects upon them," Woods says. "Ultimately, I don't think it's that big of a deal for society. I think we ought to be concentrating on drug traffickers and stopping them, and on addicts, and we should be helping them and not be running around trying to bust Willie Nelson every five minutes."

Nelson, a longtime pot smoker and advocate of legalization, was arrested in 1994 with a joint in his car ashtray. Rumor has it that he once smoked a joint in the White House.

"If everybody in the country was Willie Nelson, this country would be a much happier place," Woods says.

Photos: Jeff Newton, Makeup: Louise Jay, Props: He
photos by Jeff Newton

As for Arizona? "There's a lot of Willies out there, I guess."

As it turns out, the best way to find out about pot smokers is to talk to them -- one by one.


Sally has no scientific reason for keeping her pot in the freezer. It just seems as good a place as any.

"Don't say what a mess my freezer is," she says, as she opens the door, revealing light cream cheese, salmon steak, English muffins, edamame and several bags of Starbucks coffee beans. There, under a box of spinach, is Sally's stash.

Sally's in her late 50s, and she's practiced law her whole career. She knows firsthand that the legal profession is filled with stoners -- law students, prosecutors, judges.

But finding smoking buddies can be tricky. For Sally, marijuana is a purely social pleasure. She's single, but she never smokes alone. She's careful not to reveal her little secret to the wrong person. Not only could she be busted, she could be disbarred. Or worse, she jokes, the State Bar might try to cure her.

Sally tests new friends gingerly.

"You can talk about how stupid the drug war is, and everybody agrees," she says. "And about how many kids we've got locked up for smoking dope. And then you say something like, Boy, if I got locked up for every joint I've had, my ass would never get out.' And then the other person says, I know.' And it's this kind of a secret passing along.

"And at some point, you say, Would you like a glass of wine, or would you prefer a joint?' But you do this sort of feeling around first to make sure they're comfortable with it."

Sally hasn't tried to mix work and pot since she clerked in law school.

"With pot," she says, "you get hungry, horny and sleepy. And none of those are conducive to work."

Now Sally waits for friends to come in from out of town. She takes time off, and they binge.

"When they come in, then we just know we're going to get baked the first night they're here."

And the first morning. "As I'm cooking breakfast, he'll bring it in and say, It's probably time.'"

Sally and her friends don't go out. They stay inside her central Phoenix apartment. Sometimes she'll have a series of dinner parties for different friends who smoke-- she doesn't introduce her smoking pals to each other, fearing it would make them uncomfortable.

And often, if no one's around, Sally's supply will sit in the freezer for a month. When she does spark up, she prefers a pipe. Or, in a pinch, a toilet paper bong.

Doesn't the toilet paper roll catch fire?

"You have to know how to do this, hon," Sally says, explaining the intricacies of lining the roll with foil and poking the holes just so.

Sally has a steady supply. "I have a friend who is a lawyer who has a sibling who always manages."

The quality varies, but that's okay with Sally, who can't handle really strong weed anymore.

"The super-duper stuff -- a couple of hits and you're catatonic. This is a social thing. Who wants to be catatonic?"


Robert is clean-cut, in a nicely ironed, muted Hawaiian shirt, his hair buzzed and mustache trimmed. No wonder the 49-year-old gets funny looks when he goes to Trails to buy screens. Last time, he just knew the clerk was wondering if he was a cop.

Robert laughs, shakes his head. If that clerk could only see the hippie pictures. Just out of high school, living on the East Coast and working in a factory, Robert roomed with a bunch of guys who kept a huge candy bowl on the coffee table filled with weed. Everyone -- even those operating heavy machinery -- smoked several times a day.

"Everyone did. It was more about who didn't -- at least in our circle of friends."

His friends all still smoke, Robert says, but like him, they've slowed down.

"I got married, grew older. More responsibilities," Robert says. Like a wife of 18 years, a 16-year-old daughter and a new house in Gilbert.

"The only time I do it is in the backyard at home, alone, when I know I'm going to be alone for at least an hour or two."

What does his wife think? Robert pauses, considering the question. Frankly, he's not sure she knows. She hasn't smoked since they were dating, as far as Robert is aware.

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