by Ken Katz
You were probably expecting this to be a salacious story. It’s not. It’s simply about me being among the last of the Hippie Generation who had never smoked a joint, devoured a pot brownie, or consumed Cannabis in any form. Why not? In retrospect, I doubt that I was the least bit worried about being dragged into “quagmires of degradation”—the chief argument cited in a multitude of posters and films from the 1930s and ’40s, including Reefer Madness.
I was, however, acutely aware that Cannabis was illegal, and I preferred to not be arrested. More significantly (and younger generations are going to find this hard to believe), all through college, we drank a lot of beer and cheap red wine in half-gallon bottles, but I never encountered anyone smoking a joint—let alone selling one.
When I moved to Oakland in 1968, the “Hippie Revolution” was in full swing in the Haight-Ashbury, but I still wasn’t tempted. Same in 1996, when medical use was approved—especially since all the clinics looked like concrete-block fortresses. In 2016, when recreational use was approved, I still declined.
All that changed, however, when Oakanna opened its doors on Lakeshore Avenue on April 17 of this year. I introduced myself to owner Josh Chase the day before because Jim Hopkins, the pastor at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, had assured me that Josh was a great “kid” with neighborhood ties who’d grown up and played basketball with his own son through high school and college. What impressed me most, however, was that Oakanna didn’t look at all like a concrete-block fortress. On the contrary, the front windows span the width of the building and it’s brightly lit and inviting. My first impression was that it looked a bit like a high-tech Las Vegas casino, so I ventured inside.
Parenthetically, the COVID and Trump years have been incredibly stressful and although getting old is indeed better than the alternative, it does come with its aches and pains. If I was going to lose my virginity, I knew that I’d prefer edibles. The various products in Oakanna’s glass display cases all looked colorful, harmless, and extremely tempting. Back at home, I did some online research, perused Oakanna’s online order form, and eventually decided on Flav’s Watermelon Rings—ten to a pack, with each ring containing 10 mg of THC. The price was $7.98 plus 23% in taxes—including an Excise Tax—for a total of $10.49.
A couple of days later, I re-introduced myself to Josh. I told him which product I’d selected and that I intended to cut each ring into quarters. He agreed that 2.5 mg was an appropriate initial dose.
I already knew, based on what I’d read, that edibles take a while to take effect. The first hint that my little slice of a Watermelon Ring was kicking in came as I glided effortlessly, rather than walked, across the room. When I described this feeling to a friend a few days later, he replied, “Maybe, your joints just felt looser.” Either way, it was a good feeling. The next sensation was equally welcome but more perplexing. I’m just a shade under five-foot-six, so when I started feeling taller (maybe because I was standing more erect), that felt really good.
Over the past month, I’ve frequently found myself chuckling spontaneously, amused by the slightest and most transient of thoughts—a welcome improvement over the past couple of years, which have not been generous with occasions to smile or laugh. The number one benefit, however, has been a sense of calm, of being at ease. The key test came during one of the Warriors playoff games in late May. When the team fell behind by fifteen points in the 4th quarter, I wasn’t fazed in the least, and the Dubs did come back and win. Two weeks later, when the Celtics turned the tables on them, I merely shrugged it off as just a game. Throughout the playoffs, win or lose, I remained pretty blasé, which I admit was perhaps a bit too calm.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, however. On several occasions I ate the gummy before dinner and experienced heartburn, which I’ve since learned is common if edibles are taken on an empty stomach. More problematic was the night that I washed my 2.5 grams of THC down with a Voodoo Ranger 9% Imperial IPA. For a couple of hours afterwards, I experienced a constant stream of random ideas that bubbled to the surface and just as quickly faded from my memory. Trust me: after a very few minutes, the novelty wore off.
On the other hand, I celebrated Father’s Day with a Deschutes Haze Tron 8% IPA and had the reverse reaction, calmly sitting through a full 90-minute episode of the Endeavour mystery series on KQED. I must admit that I found it impossible to follow the twists and turns of the storyline—but, perhaps coincidentally, this is exactly what happens when I’m stone cold sober.
Thus far, I’ve only consumed the gummy rings in the evening and am unwilling to give up my nightly beer at dinner time. In combination, I do sometimes have train-of-thought issues afterwards, but most of the time I don’t. For some scenarios, that’s a gamble worth taking. If I’m filling out my income taxes or assembling the monthly Splash Pad News, I’m going to forgo the extra buzz.
One last point, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a New York Times Spelling Bee addict whose goal is to reach the “genius” level nightly, preferably without referring to “Today’s Hints.” So far, the jury is out as to whether the THC is beneficial or detrimental. My “romance” with Flav may hang in the balance.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. In addition, I haven’t received any remuneration in the form of cash or merchandise for writing and publishing this piece. I’d also caution that everyone reacts differently to Cannabis. I’ve talked to individuals who say it didn’t help and others who say they can’t function or sleep without it. If you do want to take the leap and try it for yourself, do some online research and then go talk to the folks at Oakanna or any of the other local sources. Explain what you want to achieve—be it more creativity and/or energy or, alternatively, less stress. Whatever you decide on, be sure to start on a minimal dose.