One night in another life, I and another comedian were returning from a gig in Northern Oregon. We had decided to red-eye the drive, making it to San Francisco without stopping. After crossing the state line into California, we thought we had it made.
About a half an hour after the border, my rear-view mirror lit up with the reds, blues and yellows of a cop’s lights a-flashing.
I pulled over. It was like three in the morning.
The officer stopped us because a rear tail light was out. I thought that was crazy because our little comedy tour had taken us out for a couple of weeks playing the Great Northwest. We’d logged thousands of miles and hadn’t had a problem yet. This seemed strange.
I stepped out of the car as requested. Both I and the lead officer walk back to culprit of a taillight. It was indeed out. I shook my head looking at it. Then for shits and grins, I hit the rear light with a little tap of hand. The bulb snapped in or something and that lonely, deficient light was now in harmony with the other light and was working as it had for the previous two weeks.
I looked at the officer and said something like, “See, I didn’t think there was a problem. But I will be happy to get it checked as soon as I return home.”
That’s when it turned ugly.
“Do I smell marijuana on you?”
Even in those days, even if I hadn’t smoked in a few days, the chances of me smelling like weed, was pretty good. But I knew this was a guise, a ruse. In my opinion, the officer was bored and needed something to do or someone to harass.
“Do you mind if I search the car?”
Well, yeah I mind. For some reason that night, I became defiant, at least for me, and chose not to let the police search my car. The officer tried to intimidate me that police dogs could be called and there was the possibility of jail time if I did not comply.
The other comic who was due to film a stand-up set the next day for a cable show, suddenly turned Buddhist, and was chanting incoherently on the side of the road at this point feeling his career was over. Between asking for help from his new higher power, in the most neurotic/most non-altruistic way imaginable, the comic was pleading with me to give the cops what they wanted.
My problem was I didn’t know where the pot was in the car, and how much was left after two weeks on the road. I wasn’t going to let them search the car without knowing what I had exactly.
There was no way that that cop was going to search my car that night. I felt like the reason I was pulled over was bullshit. Wasn’t there something else that these guys in blue could do besides for pulling over a couple of jokers late at night?
I mean, I wasn’t swerving or driving erratically. I felt discriminated against.
By this time, the other officer was suggesting to his crew-cut partner that he lets us go while my friend the comic is begging me to turn over what we have so he can make his filming the next day. Or actually, so he can make it today.
What happen is we compromised, sorta. The Alpha cop said, “If I give him some grass, ’cause he knows in his soul we got some,” he’d let us go.
After much deliberating, I caved. Not really sure what to give or where to look, I open the center console between the driver and passenger seats, hoping to find the smallest amount that I could give away. Inside was a film canister. Not knowing how empty or full it was, I produced it and gave it to the cops.
The police men were true to their words, and we were let go to drive off into the night. The last thing the lead officer said to me was, “You need to get going and I don’t ever want to see you in Weed again.”
I said, “What?”
He said, I don’t want to see you in Weed again. I have your name.”
“Where are we?”
He said, “Weed, California.
|City of Weed|
Later, when I told that story on stage, the punchline was, “And now you what they call the name of that town now? My Weed! Thank you good night. Don’t forget to tip your waitstaff.”
Even though I knew I got a joke out of that experience, I remained pissed and angry about that episode. And I have another 50 like that. The Road can be very unforgiving, but that’s another story.
But not only did it seem like a joke, it was a joke. Not in the funny way either.
I was a long-haired guy driving late on a freeway in an older car. Can anyone say profiling?
Now that Snoop Dogg was pinched at the same roadside distraction as Willie Nelson was in 2010, bloggers everywhere are making the joke that it might be a good idea for known tokers to stay away from Sierra Blanca, Texas. Or there are headlines that read, “Snoop Dogg, busted for pot! Who knew?” Oh, the sarcasm just drips with the laughter that comes from watching the stony antics of those crazy potheads.
See, it’s not funny and it is not a joke.
When a Willie or a Snoop gets busted, there’s a sense that they can absorb it. They can handle it. America kind of smirks to itself saying, “Oh it’s just Willie and Calvin being their lovable selves.”
|When Snoop can still get busted, none of us are safe.|
It is a joke. It’s a lame joke. It is a not funny joke. I’m sure Jay Leno did a bit on it.
What about the rest of us? We don’t get the same acknowledgement that it is ‘us just being us.’
No, when we get busted, we’re criminals. We do not get a chance to sing our way out, or even sometimes, because we’re not big stars and we’re mostly alone in this universe, we do not even get to make a phone call until the authorities deem it.
I’ve been on the side of the road late at night with a police man using his full imagination with threats and intimidation tactics that were meant to make me scared and give up whatever they wanted to know.
And because marijuana is still illegal, anyone who smokes it is a criminal.
When Snoop can still get busted, none of us are safe.
I imagine that Hudspeth County police are laughing in their uniforms at the ‘heads that they’ve cracked. They must be pleased with the fear that these civil servants have instilled into the potheads of the world, scaring them straight from driving through their county.
I bet just like Alabama, Mississippi and others in power must have felt knowing that African-Americans would think twice before attempting to drive through their states in the Fifties and Sixties.
It was a joke to be almost busted in Weed, California. It sounds funny.
Just like Snoop Dogg getting busted for marijuana. It sounds funny.
The deal is, it isn’t.
As long as people are being busted for cannabis, our freedoms aren’t worth anything.
Cannabis users are being discriminated against every day. More otherwise law-abiding people are being arrested in record numbers in the United States.
Being busted for cannabis is not a joke.
I don’t care who you are.