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Monday, March 20, 2023

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This weed lounge in Mexico City isn’t legal, but it should be

When I dream about legalization, I see this: a sunny roof terrace in Mexico City where you can buy pozole, agua de sabores, family bottles of beer and bags of cheap weed.

There’s a sleepy orange and white cat squirming around your legs as you hoist. The chatty hostess will remember your name and will share your spliff with you. Her 3-year-old daughter frolicates and glares at you, and her adult son spins reggaeton over the sound system. A turtle swims in a clay pot next to a sativa plant that thrives in the sun. There is no paranoia here.

Aside from being illegal, this place really exists.

This magical lair is hidden in DF deep within a six-storey building that is home to a jumble of businesses. This address is a neighborhood in its own right, with everything from dental offices to print shops where you can have a quinceñeara invitation sketched on a highball glass. Walk all the way to the top of the narrow staircase and you’ll come to a family restaurant that advertises breakfast for 35 pesos, the equivalent of $2.28 in the United States. Grandparents, children and teens lounge in the small hall and watch TV. Say hello to them and walk up to the roof.

There you will find Weed Club, as my friends have come to call it. I won’t share his real name or that of his staff as I want to hang out there. But I want you to know.

In Mexico, the personal consumption of marijuana is complicated. There is little recreational cannabis culture here. While I’m told the country produces excellent weed, most of this goes to wealthier customers in the United States. Mexican stoners are left with seedy bags that sell for about the equivalent of $3.25.

With this you buy an amount of weed the size of a deck of playing cards. It delivers a cheap, mellow high, if you can avoid the feeling of being part of an industry that kills thousands of people a year – fatalities caused by narcos and police.
Here in the capital you are allowed 5 grams, but the famously corrupt cops rarely allow that to shake you off should you get caught smoking on the street.

Owners La Aranita and his cousin (I call her) Angelita opened Weed Club so that stoners and users of other drugs would have a safe place to

“Addicts are all looking for a place to be and not bother anyone,” La Aranita told me one afternoon when I told him I wanted to interview him for a cannabis newspaper in San Francisco. “Most are just looking for a little privacy and space to do their activities.”

The cousins ​​grew up on the streets and, like many in the area, began sniffing industrial solvent to take away the frustrations of poverty. They also realized that they needed a safe place to relax. They started Weed Club a year ago, in a couple of rickety rooms upstairs in a building that an acquaintance owns.

But something strange happened while renovating the dilapidated space. As the news spread and their clientele grew to include college students and other stoner performers, La Aranita and Angelita stopped sniffing solvent. With their new income they found housing and their children could stay with their parents again. Today, Club 15 members of the family, across three generations, cook, create, host and build.
Angelita still smokes weed and La Aranita says it helped him get rid of his other habits.

“Alcohol, pills – marijuana helps me not to do so many hasty things,” he said. “Thinking instead of doing. It is an alternative to all those other addictions.”

There’s some hard drug use in the room. During my visit on 4/20, everyone seemed to have missed the holiday memo and were excited about the cocaine use. But still, chill stoner vibes predominate.

Weed Club is the anti-paranoia, a Hamster dam perpetuated by awkward, controversial relationships with local law enforcement where you’re free to do whatever you want as long as you don’t bother anyone else. On most days, that means people smoking joints and talking shit with friends. Craftsmen polish gems for sale on the street and blurry-eyed writers scribble in notebooks.

Yes, I’m putting money into the local drug economy when I scrounge up at Weed Club, which gets its stock from street dealers. But sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between the local drug trade and the local livelihood.

“Marijuana is very important to the economy of this neighborhood,” Aranita told me. “I think drugs offer an alternative for children.”
“Do you mean take them or sell them?” I ask.

“More than anything to sell them. Looking for work is very difficult for these children. Legal alternatives… they are hard to find. And it’s your responsibility to know when to do it [do drugs] and when to get out of your habit.”

And it’s a stoner’s responsibility to differentiate between people who are suffering from, and make the best of, a bad situation. At Weed Club there is a place in the sun.

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