Underground marijuana markets provide clandestine cannabis access for “sister sessions.”
“It’s like a speakeasy for weed. You have to know someone well enough who can vouch for you to get invited.”
A few meetups are held around the Valley each month, from Mesa to Glendale to North Phoenix. To prevent police “busts,” locations aren’t repeated.
Latisha (real names withheld), used to go the legal route, obtaining a medical card for her anxiety and insomnia. She eventually went underground to legally pursue another pastime: hunting. Federal law maintains that marijuana users are prohibited from owning firearms. This Catch-22 is one reason the underground market is doing so well. Restrictions on the amount of legally obtained marijuana is also a sticky point.
“Some people reach an allotment with their medical marijuana card [Arizona limits users to 5 ounces per month],” Latisha says. One ounce makes roughly 80 joints. It’s a substantial amount, but if a handful of friends ask for handouts, it quickly depletes. Avid marijuana users can make their way through it in a week or less.
Because the marijuana industry is primarily run by men, women get a discount on cover charges ($5, compared to $10 for men) and can bring a vouched-for plus one. Consequently, the markets tend to be female-centric.
At the underground market, a marijuana buffet overflows with THC-packed products. Barbecue sauce, hummus, crispy rice treats, gummy candies and more fill one table. Another displays dabs: concentrated forms of sticky, wax-like cannabis that are smoked through a glass water pipe. Strains of premium marijuana – according to Phoenix dispensary Nirvana Center, a top-shelf, Arizona-grown hybrid blend called Valley OG retails for $220 an ounce – are displayed. “I just want to chew on that,” Latisha says.
With freshly scored loot secured, about once a month a group of these well-connected women get together for group smoking and bonding potlucks called "sister sessions." Latisha hosts one on a sunny Sunday in Mesa. Women of all kinds are in attendance: teens, moms, seniors, marijuana industry members, business professionals, potheads, hippies. The ladies brought their own stashes, but since Latisha is hosting, she is expected to share with her guests.
Sister sessions evolved from the Glowing Goddess Getaway, an all-inclusive, female-only retreat in California, where recreational marijuana is legal. Arizonan-turned-Californian Deidra Bagdasarian is a co-founder of the Glowing Goddess Getaway. While she supports legalization, Bagdasarian is concerned about the adverse effects it’s had on marijuana farmers in California. “Farmers are now making the least amount per pound because of taxes in California since [legalization],” she says between bong rips.
Consumers have felt the monetary squeeze, too. Medical marijuana card holder Mary says the overall cost to obtain a card is around $250-$300. The solution for many “ganja goddesses” seems to be a stop at an underground market before their sister sessions.
The Bingo Underground
The underground marijuana market is often cleverly disguised as a bingo night. A $5-$10 cover gets you five bingo tickets to play in a haze of smoke. Most attendees are medical card holders who bring their own ephemera. Some skip the bingo and get in and out fast. Items you’ll see at “bingo night”:
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