10.5.2020 | Making A Herb Run – An 80s Flashback…

Welcome back to the Red Bench – I hope everyone had a relaxing weekend!

How do you know when a cannabis reviewer really likes a strain? When he drives seventy miles to pick up two(!) jars of a strain he just reviewed… and I did that just last week.

“Down The Hill”

I have become a big fan of the Lion Claw strain from Arcanna Cannabis Flowers. It is not a “knock you out” strain, unless you get deep into a sesh, because this one has a tall ceiling on the high – you can keep climbing Stoned Mountain, and every hit will get you higher until you reach the plateau… way up the mountain.

One of the things I really like about this strain is the mellow high that comes from taking just a couple hits and letting that ride. It focuses my mind and gives me that “get to it” motivation.

When I saw that the dispensary I go to had dropped the price on the Lion Claw to $35 an eighth I immediately planned a cruise to the low desert. Gotta get some of that Lion Claw before it all disappears, especially at prices like that… I also planned on picking up a jar of Arcanna’s Jedi Nights OG to review this week for just $35 too! Great prices, if you ask me…

The dispensary I go to in the low desert is called Desert’s Finest, a good thirty-five miles away in Desert Hot Springs. The round trip takes up most of my morning when I go “down the hill” as we call it, so I plan my trips carefully.

This last week, while cruising to pick up the herb, my mind reeled back across the years to going to pick up pot when I was thirty-five years younger…


Back in 1985 I was a synthesizer player in a punk/new wave/garage band. The band was called Zombie Birdhouse and despite playing numerous gigs, the band went nowhere. Everyone in the band, except the bass player, was a pothead, so our band practices were often a very stoned experience, as nearly everyone brought some herb to practice to share.

Above: That’s me on the far right in the bottom photo and in the middle of the top photo…

But the summer of 1985 was very dry. For weeks it was nearly impossible to find any decent marijuana thanks to the War on Drugs, which was raging like a sickness across the land…

I had two sources for herb back then – one was my best friend’s sister, who regularly got shipments of primo Humboldt Skunk buds. The other was a friend-of-a-friend who usually had something called Chocolate Thai. Eighths cost $25 – that was the going price for good herb.

The Humboldt Skunk buds back in 1984-85 really smelled like a skunk – strongly, powerfully! Thick, bright green buds that were impossible to hide because of the amazing smell, no matter how many baggies you used.

I miss those real Skunk buds. I hope some breeder can reverse the changes that happened when the plant was taken to Amsterdam in the 90s, and growers removed the famous skunk smell through generations of cross-breeding.

The Chocolate Thai I was able to get for about six months, in late 1984 into 1985. Tight, dense, jellybean-sized nugs that tasted like chocolate and had an upbeat, Sativa feel. I remember it distinctly, because it was my go-to until the summer hit and everything dried up.

My friend’s sister, who usually had the skunk buds, got a shipment of hash from Afghanistan in late June and throughout the summer I smoked hash when I could afford it, or else I had to go to Santa Ana.


I lived in Irvine at the time, a very white, upper-middle class, planned community in south Orange County. Santa Ana (SA) was the city next door to Irvine and was full of messy diversity by Irvine standards… immigrants, Latinos, barrios, gangs, and within the gang territories – pot houses. I got introduced to these by a friend named Dennis in the summer of ‘84 and never expected I would find myself going there on a regular basis…

The marijuana at the pot houses was pure crap. It often smelled of gasoline because it had been smuggled into the US in big fuel trucks. I would guess the THC level was around 5% and the buds weren’t even trimmed – lots of sugar leaves that did nothing but make the smoke harsh. But when that’s the only thing available… well, by mid-summer, 1985 I was going to SA several times a week to pick-up weed (I hate using the term “weed”, but in this case it applied).

The experience of going to a pot house was always pretty sketchy.

The pot houses looked like any other abandoned rental property on the block. You would go to the front door, knock and wait. A big guy (always a really big guy) who was usually shirtless with a gun tucked in his pants would open the door. Looking past the big guy, the living rooms were always nearly empty except for garbage bags full of pot. At this point you only needed to say one of two things – dime or nickle.

A dime was about two fingers of marijuana in a plastic sandwich baggie, probably between an eighth and a quarter. It cost ten dollars, of course. If you only had five dollars you would say a nickle. At this point the big guy would pick up a large pair of scissors sitting on the table just inside the door, and cut the dime baggie in half and hand you one of the halves. And then the door would close. Transaction done.

I was usually a little creeped out by this time, no matter how many trips I made to Santa Ana during 1985. If I wasn’t worried about cops, then I had to worry about thieves. Once I was mugged while waiting for a friend to get a dime, and so I always boogied as fast as I could out of SA with my crappy little bag of gasoline weed…

Back To Now

It was at this point of my flashback that I pulled up at Desert’s Finest and parked my car in front of the storefront shop. I walked into the front waiting room and slid my ID through the glass window to the receptionist/security guard. After a few minutes I was buzzed into the product room that contained quality branded cannabis products of every imaginable kind… edibles, flowers, concentrates, vapes, etc. – all tested and professionally packaged. Clean. Safe. Secure.

I made my selection and a nice bud tender rang up my sale, gave me a 10% “wisdom discount” because I’m over 55, and put it all in a bag with a receipt stapled to the top. My mind was still thinking about 1985 and the contrast with my current situation was staggering.

As I left a handful of people were in the waiting room, most of them over forty… the vibe was mellow and a TV was playing a video about terpenes. I walked out the front door of Desert’s Finest remembering the pot houses in SA, and how nervous I always felt going there. A cop car drove by as I headed to my car and the police didn’t even look twice my way… nor did I expect them to.

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