Before we get to the reviews, some not-so-great news. Legal cannabis is probably not going to been taken up by Maryland legislature next year. At least that’s the sense from a rather resigned Marijuana Legalization Workgroup meeting last Wednesday. The workgroup, whose chairs are Delegate Kathleen M. Dumais and Senator Bill Ferguson, have been meeting throughout 2019 ostensibly to model what legalization of cannabis could look like in Maryland, which until last week’s meeting, seemed likely to come up in the next legislative session.

So, even though cannabis is currently legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington D.C., the workgroup believes the issue is pretty complicated—which it is, of course—and wants to more time to work out the finer details before making a recommendation.

The idea is that legalization in Maryland can avoid some of the pitfalls that legalization in other states has experienced by wrestling with issues such as racial equity, industry monopolies, and expungement before legalization goes into effect rather than after it goes in effect. This desire to do legalization “right” however does continue to have negative effects right now for many Marylanders, especially people of color. As Baltimore Fishbowl and BINJ reported last year, 96% of Baltimoreans arrested for cannabis possession between 2015-2017 were Black; State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s announcement earlier this year that her office would no longer prosecute possession has introduced a complicated grey area especially because the Baltimore Police Department is not on board.

The workgroup’s approach however is encouraging. When it comes to what Senator Jill Carter called, “the collateral consequences of predicate convictions”—how to deal with folks who have been convicted of a cannabis “crime” once cannabis is legal—the workgroup’s stance is expungement, plain and simple.

“If we legalize something that somebody has been convicted of, we obviously need to get rid of the conviction off their record, Delegate Dumais said. “And we may not have the right process in place at the moment but that’s the goal and I think that was the general consensus from the work group.”

Expungement itself however, is complicated and costly. Even if the expungements for cannabis-related “crime” is automatic—meaning, those previously charged or convicted don’t have to make the expungement happen themselves—it still requires a labor. Clerks of the court and cops must locate all the records related to the crime and physically destroy that evidence—on top of removing it from online databases such as Maryland Case Search.

The workgroup is also concerned with the lack of racial equity among cannabis dispensary owners—and out-of-state companies dominating the industry.

“There are three dispensaries in a couple miles of my house and two of them have been bought by out of state companies,” Delegate David Moon said. “It’s a bad look.”

“Maryland consumers will benefit the greatest by having a competitive marketplace that is not monopolized,” Ferguson said.

There will still be one more full meeting this year and there will be a final report but its focus is strictly exploratory rather than instructive at this point.

“I think the consensus is we’re not recommending legislation this session to legalize adult use, we are still in the investigative mode,” Dumais said. “At least that’s my sense of where we are.” (Brandon Soderberg)

Strawberry Banana

Photo by Baynard Woods

A writer friend was having an event, a baby shower, and it was a surprise for his wife. I should have known it was a surprise, but I was going out of town and couldn’t attend and reading the friend’s essays about the impending birth filled me with emotion. I thought I’d write the wife a nice note. In short, dear reader, I ruined it.

I wanted to punch myself in the face. I understood how Oedipus, faced with much greater ignorance, thought that gouging out his eyes might offer some relief. In the scope of the world, mine was a minor mishap and my friends responded with grace. But I still could not stop cringing. It revealed to me a self that I hated. The kind of guy who ruins a surprise.

Grasping for things to think about other than how stupid I was, I recalled this dude I once interviewed who was trying to use weed to quell street beefs and keep guys from shooting each other by getting them to sit down and burn one together. I realized that’s what I needed to do — with myself. Blunt the violence.

I didn’t want anything Sativa-y, because I could foresee the spiral that would engulf me and drag me down further into self-hatred. I settled on Strawberry Banana, an Indica that calmed my mind and made sleep possible. When I put my nose in the jar, there was no hint of strawberry, but the flower did in fact have a faint after-odor of banana peel riding on a scent far more floral, something pungent and dank and not as polite as strawberries, something with the vague hint of death and decay.

Ablaze, there is, however, a flavor that is almost like strawberry, or rather a Strawberry Shortcake doll. I took several long, deep pulls from the pipe, and shortly I could feel the tension held in my spine between my shoulder blades start to give in and relax a little. My brow, which is accustomed to being furrowed, began to smooth over as the edges of my eyes dropped, relaxed. Then the thought of my accursed text to my friend’s wife crossed my mind again. I still cringed and I still hated the person the error revealed to me. But I sat easier with him. I looked at him with a side-eyed hate instead of outright violent hostility.

Such coming to relative peace with ourselves is one of the more medicinal aspects of certain strains. Best of all, unlike booze or dope, this is a salve that doesn’t make you do things that make you hate yourself even more. But I will also add that after another bowl, a shot and a beer in a public place was exactly the thing I needed to allay the self-loathing long enough to finish my evening and to sleep. Strawberry Banana is a good strain, for which I am grateful. (Baynard Woods)

  • Strength: 6
  • Nose: Banana peels, death, Strawberry Shortcake doll
  • Euphoria: 7
  • Existential dread: 2
  • Freaking out when a crazy person approaches you: 1
  • Drink pairing: Beer and a shot
  • Music pairing: Warren Zevon, “My Shit’s Fucked Up”
  • Rating: 7

Gorilla Snacks

Photo by Brandon Soderberg

The chocolate éclair weighed a pound. A lumpy, dumpy, delicious, football-shaped treat, sun-faded dough sandwiching way too much cream, smooshing it down so it’s really oozing out, and on top of it a helmet-hard layer of chocolate — and I ate half of the thing rewatching, yes, rewatching, Netflix’s “Mindhunter,” a scene where hyper-articulate, coed-killer Ed Kemper goes on and on about murder and how difficult it is in exacting and awful ways playing out in front of me and my plate. It was all pretty weird, I thought. I ate a half-a-pound of chocolate éclair. In this sad, absurd scene, the two main takeaways from Gorilla Snacks (sometimes G-Snacks, fallout from the Gorilla Glue lawsuit to keep all Gorilla-related strains on-brand): It makes you hungry like monstrous Mr. Creosote from “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life,” and it punishes you with self-awareness.

A somewhat buzz-y, relatively new and ultimately derivative strain, Gorilla Snacks combines G.G. #4 and Scooby Snacks backcross Guinness. I dare most folks to differentiate between the G.G. strains — and really, G.G. #4 tastes, smells and feels a lot like the popular G.G. #1 that most people know all about (from a past review of G.G. #1: “[It] has a quick rush around the eyes and gives a chill like a breeze on your neck, that settles into full-relaxed reflection — not glued to the couch”). As for Guinness (presumably soon to get a name change for copyright infringement reasons like Gorilla Glue), if you know Scooby Snacks, a strain that makes you ornery and ecstatic that (also from an earlier review: “You’ll feel sleepy and compromised, like a warm, hard wind’s blowing against you, pushing you back, preventing you from moving too fast,” I wrote), you know Guinness.

And Guinness is an F3 — a third-generation hybrid. This kind of hybrid lingo is not something we’ve dealt with too much in these reviews. Think of it this way: An F1 is a hybrid of two strains with different genotypes; an F2 then, is two F1 hybrids and when you do this again, you get an F3 and again, an F4. Anyways, at its best, Gorilla Snacks’ high suggests it’s a piece of something larger or more complicated, and at its worst it’s like a copy of a copy of a copy.

I have found, FWIW, that if you have a tendency toward a certain kind of hate-eating where you’re eating to not feel anything, eliminating joy and with it, not even tasting what you’re shoving into your mouth (basically, if you abuse food like many abuse drugs or if you abuse food as well as drugs), Gorilla Snacks indulges the diet, caffeine-free version of the death drive and brings back those fleeting blips of ecstasy (chewing feels good man). There are days where that can be revelatory or enough — it’s not just “lmao tha munchies,” you know? The name is fitting, telling smokers the tension inherent in the strain: gorilla (large) and snacks (small). Kind of like a giant-ass éclair. It has a big, little high. (BS)

  • Strength: 8
  • Nose: Chocolate gummy bears
  • Euphoria: 9
  • Existential dread: 6
  • Freaking out when a crazy person approaches you: 4
  • Drink pairing: A milkshake, fuck it man
  • Music pairing: Johanna Knutsson’s “Tollarp Transmissions”
  • Rating: 7

Dutch Racer

Photo by Baynard Woods

In the summer of 2000, I went to Groningen, Holland, for a conference on the ancient novel. I was presenting a paper on the Roman novel “The Golden Ass” by Apuleius. I’ve been thinking a lot of that remarkable novel lately as I’ve been smoking the nearly pure Sativa Dutch Racer.

I don’t think it’s because of the fact that it’s a Dutch strain, and I talked to a bunch of people about the book nearly 20 years ago. It’s more like the spirit of the book has lingered so long, in the way the weed induces certain recursive thoughts. In the novel, the narrator goes to Thessaly on business. He gets involved in a sexual scenario and, because of a witch, becomes a donkey. It’s a great narrative device because, since he’s a donkey, no one hesitates to talk freely around him. But eventually he manages to eat a rosebud, which is the cure for his asinine shape. And he joins the cult of Isis.

I think I’ve been thinking about the book because I feel like an ass a lot of the time and a Sativa like Dutch Racer helps me feel human and competent again. Isn’t that the ultimate high, to be competent at life? To be human while recognizing all the non-human life around you?

This gorgeously crystalline strain with an odor of Meyer lemons and hyacinth about it incites a dutiful and buzzy wakefulness that, after the initial stoned impulse, does manage to make you feel more accomplished without you really noticing too much that you’re even high. But things are better. No, you feel like you are better at things. And there isn’t really a heavy comedown to leave you feeling tattered and tired at all. It’s like it just changes from intense focused stoned to a more diffuse, less-stoned sense of awareness.

If you smoke more, like the time I smoked a second bowl by myself, it still doesn’t go too far in the Sativa-paranoia direction — but it can get you there as the energy seems to concentrate behind the eyes with a thrumming insistence that comes right to the edge of fear-inducing, and then, though, it gives you a high-five. It’s like a real-life equivalent of an overamped teammate getting in your face and yelling encouragement.

The flavor, when fired, contains the essence of autumn — the hauntings of all the first fires you’ve ever roasted marshmallows over. Medicinally, it is the rosebud that can turn your asinine self back into a better version. And the bud is a better version of pot. But you are still you and the only way to be better is to be better. (BW)

  • Strength: 7
  • Nose: Hyacinth, Meyer lemons, wet newspaper
  • Euphoria: 8
  • Existential dread: 4
  • Freaking out when a crazy person approaches you: 0
  • Drink pairing: Water
  • Music pairing: MC5, “Kick Out the Jams”

Venom OG

Photo by Brandon Soderberg

Can only your knees be high? Is that possible? That’s how it felt after a generous joint full of Venom OG, an unrelenting hybrid that mixes the near-narcotic Poison OG with regrettably named Colorado favorite Rare Dankness #1, a convoluted cross of a crossbreed that alone sends a smoker into a Nighttime Sudafed-like stupor.

Venom OG really does feel like an overdose, or at least a poisoning. My knees felt it almost exclusively, it seemed. The relief around those joints was really whirling, as if the THC was eddying in that one place. And soon enough, Venom OG spread to an all-over-the-body high that tucks aches and throbs somewhere else for a few hours and teases transcendence. It is easily one of the most effective strains for pain around, but it doesn’t dull thoughts or leave you hopelessly distracted — watch out or you’ll end up viewing the first 20 minutes of like six different movies never settling on anything and nodding off to sleep.

One strange side effect is Venom OG hits hard (it’s especially combustible) and that made it tough to breathe after smoking. You should be careful with this one.

In other ways, Venom OG’s an obvious strain. It tastes like it smells: lime and pine, each scent seemingly jumping into one nostril, the scents never quite intertwining, and when you light it up, a burst of salted caramel cookie under all of that. That taste coats your mouth and scrubs away the excitement for flavor, leaving foods either too sweet or really bland, eliminating that base stoner desire to munch for hours. That makes it good for eating if you have to eat and don’t want to eat.

The buds themselves are an over-the-top Kermit the Frog kind of green, and they look like a pointillist painting of a weed because the green ridges and wild orange hairs are so fine, enhanced by a layer of magic hour-hued trichomes. There’s that scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” where Cameron, in his Gordie Howe No. 9 Chicago Blackhawks jersey, stares at that famous Seurat painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” and then straight through it, until he has abstracted it, the camera doing the seeing for us through a series of extreme close-ups. A nug of Venom OG looks like one of the trees tucked in the right corner of that painting, where light doesn’t quite hit those leaves enough to get a full view of the distinct little dots, and it’s simultaneously ecstatically real and pretty much a blur. That’s Venom OG’s high in a nutshell: There’s something beautiful there but you can’t quite get to it; you’re shackled, self-conscious — a goof in a dumb, ugly hockey jersey trying to figure it out. (BS)

  • Strength: 10
  • Nose: Lime and pine
  • Euphoria: 8
  • Existential dread: 3
  • Freaking out when a crazy person approaches you: 3
  • Drink pairing: Ginger lemonade
  • Music pairing: Ellen Arkbro’s “CHORDS”
  • Rating: 8