Arts

How hard is it to get pot now that it’s legal?

Dugan Arnett wandered down Winter Street while looking for marijuana in Boston.
Craig F. Walker/Globe staff
Dugan Arnett wandered down Winter Street while looking for marijuana in Boston.

Call me old-fashioned, but I trusted Nancy Reagan when she urged me to Just Say No. I listened when McGruff the Crime Dog insisted that “users are losers.” And when my younger sister arrived home one night back in high school smelling of the devil’s lettuce, I did what any self-respecting graduate of the DARE program would do: I told my mom.

So when my boss approached me to ask if I’d be willing to go out on Thursday – the day marijuana officially became legal in Massachusetts – and attempt to buy some, it’s safe to say I was caught off guard.

Apparently she thought if I could get it, anyone could.

Advertisement

Immediately, a million questions rushed through my head: Where exactly does one buy drugs? How much do drugs cost? And: Did I need a gun?

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Aside from the moral implications, this would be no easy task. Though it is now legal to buy and possess limited quantities of marijuana, it is still illegal to sell it. Which meant that anything I acquired would be part of a black-market transaction.

But when Dugan H. Arnett puts his mind to something, he sometimes does it. This, I hoped, would be one of those times.

I looked my boss square in the eye and told her — and I quote — “Yes.”

Since my own experience with drugs was limited to “The Wire” and one bad NyQuil trip, I figured it would be a good idea to check in with some friends for advice on how to go about buying — to use a little-known code-word — “pot.”

Advertisement

My first call was to an out-of-town friend and fellow journalist, a guy I knew to be something of a black-market connoisseur, proficient in procuring marijuana in whatever locale he happened to find himself.

He was rolling a joint when I called.

“Listen, I need your advice,” I said, before launching into a detailed explanation of my assignment. He listened politely as I spoke. Then he explained why he did not feel particularly optimistic about my quest.

“No offense, man — but you just seem like a narc,” he said. “You would just immediately put me on edge.”

Others were a bit more constructive. One suggested looking for skateboarders. Another suggested simply “following the scent.”

Advertisement

“Don’t ask for a ‘dime bag,’ ” offered another friend with extensive experience in recreational drug use. “They’ll think you’re a cop.”

By Thursday morning, I was ready to hit the streets.

If there was one place a guy could get his hands on a little pot, I figured, it was a college campus. So I caught an early Red Line train to Cambridge and headed over to Harvard.

Out in the Yard, students were criss-crossing the sidewalks. From a distance, I carefully sized them up, eventually settling on a preppy-looking guy with a backpack.

“Excuse me,” I said, flawlessly delivering the line I’d spent the morning rehearsing. “You wouldn’t happen to know where I could get some weed, would you?”

For a moment, he looked at me with a mixture of pity and disgust. Then he said, “No, I don’t,” and hustled off.

Dugan Arnett left the Boston Smoke Shop while looking for marijuana in Boston.
Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe
Dugan Arnett left the Boston Smoke Shop while looking for marijuana in Boston.

From there, things didn’t get much better. A woman in a stocking cap said she had no idea where to get marijuana. Another guy laughed and wished me luck. One man told me that his husband likely had some, before adding that his husband wasn’t in the area.

An hour and a half later, and no closer to drugs, I decided to head back to Boston and, at the suggestion of a friend, check out a head shop.

Boston Smoke Shop: Water Pipes, Vaporizers on Boylston is a palace of pipes, bongs, and candy bars. Almost as soon as I walked through the door, an employee was offering his assistance.

I asked him, nonchalantly, how a guy might go about buying some marijuana.

He said that marijuana wouldn’t be legal for sale until 2018, and in response, I made a point of speaking very loudly, in case any of the gentlemen lingering inside the shop might feel compelled to help me out.

“OK,” I said. “SO THERE’S NO OTHER PLACE I CAN GET IT?”

No takers.

As the day wore on, my approach grew increasingly brazen. I stopped by the front steps of the Boston Public Library, where I’d often detected the aroma of marijuana. I texted Boston-area acquaintances I had no business texting — asking them if they knew where to get pot. At one point, I simply stood on Boston Common, near a bench where I’d once seen a drug bust, hoping that a dealer would see me, walk over, and kindly offer me some drugs.

None of these efforts proved fruitful, however, and by 2 p.m., I was starting to get nervous.

Despite all my work, I had happened upon only one potential lead. The day before, I’d been approached by an acquaintance who’d heard I was working on the story. If push came to shove, he’d said, I could give him a call.

Desperate, I made the call, and a half-hour later, I was on the phone with a real-life drug dealer.

He told me that he worked until 5 p.m., then had to stop at the bank, and would be home by 6.

I told him I’d meet him then.

Around 5:30 p.m., I hopped a Green Line train to Coolidge Corner, and hoofed it to the address he’d provided. With the possible exception of seeing “50 Shades of Grey” in the theater, it was the edgiest thing I’d ever done.

Inside, the transaction went seamlessly. He handed me the drugs. I handed him the money.

And that, as they say, was that.

Stepping back into the chilly night air, I felt a rush of adrenaline. After all the time, all the energy, all the day’s roadblocks, I’d somehow done it.

On the trip back home, the anticipation building, I could barely contain a smile.

There was only one thing left to do now.

I glided up the stairs of my apartment, swung open my front door.

Then I walked straight to the kitchen, pulled the drugs from my pocket, and dumped them right into the garbage where they belong.

Thanks, McGruff.

Dugan Arnett can be reached at dugan.arnett@globe.com