feature

Digital art by Alex Reyes

The Canna Blind Guy Will Blind You With Wellness

Meet the Instagram star who can now ‘smell notes out of the flower that I couldn’t pick out before.’

Perhaps surprisingly, a large community of blind people uses Instagram. Thanks to some technological advancements like voice plug-ins and artificial intelligence, the most visual of all the social media networks has become a friendly platform for the visually impaired.

And when you have blind people on Instagram, some of them will inevitably become Instagram stars. Most notably, the Los Angeles personality Blind Film Critic has racked up about 35,000 followers with his Insta exploits.

The Bay Area also has a blind social media star, one who puts indica on his Instagram. Meet the Canna Blind Guy, a Peninsula resident named Trevor who documents how cannabis and CBD products help him cope with his visual impairment. He’s become a staple at Bay Area cannabis events since a case of pneumonia literally robbed him blind three years ago.

“I was having these very violent coughing spells,” the Canna Blind Guy tells SF Evergreen. “It’s like you’re drowning, that’s what it feels like. You’re trying to get oxygen, but you’re coughing at the same time.”

Trevor coughed so hard he popped the retinas from both of his eyeballs.

“I opened my eyes, and it was like looking through a black stocking with little holes of light punched through,” he says. “I couldn’t see anything.”

Trevor has been blind since, with only very limited eyesight. But thanks to Instagram, he’s become more visible than he’s ever been.

“I was trying to reinvent who I was,” he tells us. “When you lose sight, you lose a lot. It’s really hard to try to work, because you just can’t see. I had to figure out, ‘How am I going to make money?’ ”

“My friends said, ‘What do you want to do? What are you still good at?’ And I was like, ‘I’m great with marijuana,’ ” he laughs.

It’s no accident that Instagram is where his newly minted personality, Canna Blind Guy, took off. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are notoriously unfriendly to marijuana, so Instagram was the best place to share tips, tricks, stories, and cannabis shenanigans.

“I knew the platform before I lost my sight, so I knew how to run everything just off of memory,” he explains. His @CannaBlindGuy account has become a clearinghouse for reviews and recommendations, but it also chronicles some pretty horrible experiences with surgery, pain, and coping with a disability.

“Social media is about the good times, only the good times,” says Canna Blind Guy. “A lot of people don’t like putting their real life out there on Instagram.”

But the unpleasant side of visually impaired life — the surgical needles in the eyeballs, the bouts of depression, getting hosed on disability benefits — is what really powers the Canna Blind Guy community.

“Other people with disabilities started reaching out to me,” he says. “They started telling me their struggles. We’re bouncing ideas off each other. Getting those private messages is great. It’s more motivation that people get what you’re going through, and they’re going through it with you.”

Instagram and smartphone manufacturers have both wised up and added tools to make their offerings friendlier to people with disabilities. For those with visual impairments, there are spoken transcription plug-ins, and advanced pinch and zoom tricks that make text and images much larger.

“One sentence looks like a huge paragraph,” he says. “If someone texts me a long message, I say, ‘Can you please just call me?’ ”

But three years without vision have heightened Canna Blind Guy’s ability to hear, touch, and sniff out pot like a police dog. He calls these new skills “spidey senses,” and they’re useful in the cannabis world.

“I can smell notes out of the flower that I couldn’t pick out before,” he explains. “My friends play this game with me called ‘Pick Out the Chronic’ when we go to a dispensary. I always end up picking the high-percentage THC [strains], and I go strictly off of smell.”

And so he offers words of weed wisdom.

“If people aren’t educated, choose the one that smells the best,” he says. “If I touch a piece of flower that’s really nice, something very chronic, I get flashes of pictures in my head of what it looks like. How crystally it is, how it might be frosted — things like that will pop up in my head.”

Despite his newfound marijuana culture fame and thousands of followers, the Canna Blind Guy does acknowledge the emotional difficulty of a severe eyesight impairment.

“As a blind person, you feel very alone,” he admits. “The world’s so busy and you don’t want to interrupt anyone’s life. You feel bad trying to get help from anybody — even if it’s family, you feel bad. You feel like a nag. You’re just weak.”

So he stresses the importance of friends and family support, but he also wishes local governments and small businesses would better support people with disabilities.

“When you go on a date, you’re hoping to God that menu is online,” he admits. “Because the last thing you want to do is ask the date to read you the menu. That’s awkward as hell. It’s awkward already, and that makes it more awkward.”

Since he’s become sort of an unofficial spokesperson for the visually impaired community, Canna Blind Guy offers some thoughts on how to best support people with disabilities.

“Being aware and understanding is what disabled people want,” he says. “We don’t want pity, we want you to see, ‘Hell yeah, they’re hustling, they’re grinding it out.’ Give us props for that. That’s what we want.”

The Canna Blind Guy now has pneumonia, blindness, and five eye surgeries under his belt, and he’ll tell you about how pure CBD helped him manage pain and side effects through all of them. He’s scheduled to have one more surgery, and maybe he’ll even get his sight back someday. But life has funny ways of fucking up even the best-laid plans.

“The struggle is tough, but your fight is stronger,” he says. “Life takes cheap shots. You just have to hit back, and fight harder than life does.”