Culture or Vulture

I recently established Culture Or Vulture as a podcast and video interview series dedicated to exploring the cultural differences between the two societies illegal cannabis has created. The intention of the series is to honestly interview people who are active in the cannabis space, regardless if they are licensed or not. Through honest conversations without agenda or expectation, we all show our true intentions and identities.

Before cannabis was legal, groups of people would gather together to secretly “sesh” together. No one was excluded unless you didn’t participate. Once we were all stoned, we would all talk, not knowing the conversations would mold “the cannabis culture.” People weren’t judged by the individual or subjective perspective but by the sesh through the eyes of the plant. That is our same goal now – to provide the platform where we can all sesh and you decide what the culture is.

One of the first people featured on Culture Or Vulture was Sonny of Rochester, who was born into the culture. She had her first child at age 17 when she was faced with the harsh new reality of being the sole provider for her child. She began hustling and selling weed to provide for herself and her child, which led to selling much more dangerous, but lucrative drugs like cocaine. In the early years of cannabis, there was not much money to be made because the plant was much larger and harder to move around and much less potent and addictive than other drugs, thus making it hard to service solely off selling cannabis alone.

The first time I saw Sonny was on an Instagram livestream. She was speaking on a panel at an event that she had organized called “Women in Weed” at a sort of speakeasy in Rochester. Her event was intended to highlight women who have been in the cannabis industry but had never had the opportunity to be transparent about it.

I’ll never forget watching her speak on that panel. She spoke raw truth that anyone who has been labeled as part of the “drug war” would understand. She sat on that panel, with a crowd full of her community, legislators and city council members – a small, 5-foot Latina/Native American with a fire in her heart. She screamed into the microphone “…and I got myself off Suboxone, because the doctors wouldn’t take me off that sh*t, and I wasn’t going to live that way.” Some of the people in the audience applauded because they understood how she felt, but others applauded because they knew they never could.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Sonny began smoking weed at age 10. “I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is,” she said. She used to sneak her father’s blunt roaches out of the ashtray and smoke them. By age 15, she was what society considered to be a dreaded “stoner.”

Like a lot of people who had grown up in the inner city or around drug culture, she never viewed cannabis as something addictive or destructive – unlike most suburban areas where people believed in programs like DARE and never actually saw this “evil cannabis” first-hand, therefore making them easy targets of misinformation and propaganda around cannabis and the community that represents it.

Sonny had her first child very young. Being a single mother in the inner city, she began selling drugs to make money and survive. After becoming successful at her craft, she started to not only sell addictive substances but use them as well. During our interview she said, “I never did my own work, but it got so bad that my plug stopped dealing with me. I got some kind of ‘drug dealer’ depression because I couldn’t run things how I wanted.” It was shortly after this that Sonny became a self-described “straight up fiend.” For anyone who wants to think twice about that, I was a straight up fiend too – it takes a real warrior to make it out of that sh*t.

In the environment I was raised in, cannabis was treated as crack and was not recognized as medicine or accepted at all. Because of this stigma, people were quick to cast you aside as a dirty junky even if it was only smoking cannabis. When Sonny’s community saw she had hit rock bottom and was doped out, they came to her with shock, concern and support. They encouraged her to get clean, get help and start using cannabis again to stay away from opioids.

Sonny finally went to rehab where she detoxed but never finished the program. The doctors prescribed her Suboxone because they didn’t want her to go back “out on the streets” … the same streets that encouraged her to go to detox and get help in the first place. (Suboxone is a highly addictive man-made narcotic with little research surrounding it. This drug is heavy prescribed as a medicine used to get sober from heroin addiction, but the medicine itself is, as many legally prescribed opioids, far more addictive than street heroin).

She got back and began taking her Suboxone as prescribed. She quickly realized that this legally encouraged and supported drug had a similar effect as heroin but was more addictive. After making this realization and with a goal to not be dependent on anything whatsoever, she went back to her doctors and said, “What do y’all got me on? Take me off this sh*t.” To which they replied, “Oh you can’t just stop taking it.” This was the match that started the fire I saw in Sonny on that panel – the people she had been led to believe would help her were even worse than the dealers she knew on the street. They had tricked her into becoming addicted to something else when the very reason she came to them was to be back in control.

After this visit she told the doctors, “If you won’t take me off it, I will stop taking it myself.” They warned her over and over that it would be too dangerous, and the withdrawals would be so bad that there was no way she could resist running back to the streets for drugs. Well, she did go right back to the streets, sick and going through heavy withdrawals.

Just like those doctors said, the street drug dealers saw her and asked “Sonny, what are you on?”

“I’m coming off Suboxone,” she said, telling them her story. They said they never heard of anyone willingly coming off Suboxone.

“I got something for you,” one of them said.

PAUSE! Mind you this was an “evil drug dealer” who, if you even wander around the hood, will quickly see you out of place and smooth talk you into becoming a drug addict in record time! He pulled out a HP of brick weed and said “Take this and try to get right.”

So, Sonny went home and locked herself in her bedroom and began the three-week journey of mental, physical and emotional torment of withdrawing from something your body has become physically dependent on.

She said the only thing that helped was smoking blunt after blunt of that medicine that a drug dealer off the street gave her to help her get off her legally prescribed recovery medicine. Let that sink in.

“After that, I never stopped smoking,” Sonny said. “It’s like I lost my way and then the plant brought me back. I forgot it was about community and acceptance and not greed.”

Sonny is now a staple and a leader in her community. You can catch her throwing a community event or planning the next Women in Weed conference (coming up this August) which is becoming an amazing celebration in New York. If she isn’t doing that, she is working, raising two children and finishing her associate’s degree online. Sonny is an amazing, empowering woman who is destined for great things but needs more than just her community’s support!

The community when cannabis was illegal is no more. It can never be the same, and not many people who were in it before have anyone to represent them in the legal space – the new community that many are being kept from. This is the mission of Culture Or Vulture: to show more than just our small community who we are, what we represent and that it’s for everyone to experience, accept and learn from.

Please give Sonny a follow on her social media accounts (see the QR code) and reach out to see if you can support her on her journey. She doesn’t need much … just the opportunity.

Follow Dr. Dank on Instagram @_drdank_

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *