Money

The Cannabis Queenpin

Investing in something that has been illegal for most of my life is both thrilling and frightening

I just made my first online stock purchase. I'm thrilled and frightened, convinced I'm either throwing my money away or poised to make a killing.

I researched and selected individual, high-risk companies and bought a tiny amount of stock in two of them, investing in companies that make products from cannabis. Marijuana. Grass. Dope. Pot. Hemp. You know, weed. The stuff that has been illegal my whole life.

I grew up in Omaha during the 1970s, when pot was ubiquitous. In my high school, the freaks smoked it, and so did the jocks, the nerds and everyone in-between.

At parties or in cars, I watched boys rake out the seeds using matchbooks and album covers. The gatefold covers were the best: The Allman Brothers' "Eat a Peach," Grand Funk's "Closer to Home," Traffic. After the seeds rolled into the fold, these boys would assemble expert joints. They moistened the E-Z Wider or Zig-Zag or Top papers with the tips of their tongues just enough to hold everything together, but not so much as to impede a smooth toke.

We weren't criminals or kingpins. We were kids. Then I grew up and didn't smoke pot anymore.

A couple of years ago, I visited a daughter in Oregon, one of the first states to decriminalize and then legalize pot. I was curious, so my daughter, in her 30s now, took me to a cannabis dispensary where we were assisted by a "budtender."

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The dispensary felt like pharmacies used to feel: white, clean and well-lit, with products displayed on shelves and in glass racks.

The wide variety of product made the budtender essential. Pot was available as loose buds in glass jars and plastic bags, as oil, rolled into joints and as edibles. Pipes, bongs, roach clips and other recognizable and unrecognizable paraphernalia lined the shelves.

The buds were solid, thick, hairy and seedless. There was little resemblance to the ground up buds, stems, leaves and seeds that inhabited our old album covers.

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The names of the varieties were clever. Echoes from my youth reverberated when I saw Panama Red, Acapulco Gold and Maui Wowie. And there was also strains called Charlotte's Web, Girl Scout Cookie and Yumbolt. I bought one joint of a variety called Gorilla Glue, so named because a little bit was designed to make you feel like you were glued to the couch. I planned to take it home as a novelty and put it in a glass container. My first dope deal.

When I got home, my whole suitcase reeked. "I wrapped it in my dirty underwear," I explained to my husband. He was incredulous I'd brought it home in the first place and didn't think my strategy was too clever.

"That's the first place the dogs would sniff," he said.

Later, we took a couple of puffs of my purchase, which made the discussion of my recklessness even funnier. "I bought it legally," I said. "If I'd been stopped, I would have just acted like a dumb, middle-aged woman. You know, like who I am."

We put the rest of the joint back in its vial, and my husband put it in his sock drawer. The next morning, the smell of pot permeated his dresser. He placed the vial inside a larger glass jar and hid it. A few months later we wanted to show it to a friend, but we couldn't find it. We still can't.

One of our daughters got an internship with a company that does market research for investors who are interested in the cannabis industry. Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states and some territories to treat things like insomnia, appetite loss and nausea, PMS and menstrual cramps, pain, neuralgia, epilepsy, and many other more serious diseases. Pot is legal for recreational use in several states, too.

The idea of investing in cannabis began to nag at me.

My husband and I took another trip out west last fall to see the kids in Oregon and California. I sat next to a woman about my age on the airplane, and over the course of the long flight, we started chatting. We discovered that we both have circles of women friends we've known since college who still get together to reconnect and relax.

"My friends and I went to Denver last year," she said. "And we bought some pot."

I asked if everyone had done it. Like my group, the age span of her friends is about 15 years, and each one of those years made a big difference in people's exposure to pot, as well as their willingness to try it.

"No," she said. "Some didn't. But everyone else had a great time. One of the women kept saying 'How much does my head weigh? How much does my head weigh?' all night long. After we got home, she sent us a picture of her head on a bathroom scale."

After I got my account set up I screwed up my courage, hit the "Trade" tab, hit "Buy" and made the deal. About a month later, I bought a little more.

Making these trades feels a bit like snorkeling to me. Once my head's in the water and I open my eyes, I realize I'm in a foreign world and it takes my breath away. Of course, the stock market is not beautiful like a coral reef but jumping in gave me the same feeling of anxiety and excitement.

None of us knows what the eventual outcome will be, regarding the legalization of cannabis, or whether my stocks will plummet or explode. A lot of people are benefitting from it, and it seems to me there's no putting the horse back in the barn.

I hope my stocks go up. I want to be a queenpin and make a killing with cannabis. The legal kind.

   
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