This Mexico City weed lounge isn’t legal, but it should be
When I dream about legalization, this is what I see: a sunny rooftop in Mexico City where you can buy pozole, agua de sabores, family-sized bottles of beer, and bags of cheap weed.
There’s a sleepy orange and white cat who winds around your legs as you toke. The chatty hostess remembers your name and will share your spliff with you. Her 3-year-old daughter darts around eying you mischievously, and her adult son spins reggaeton over the sound system. A turtle swims in a clay pot, next to a sativa plant that thrives in the sunshine. There’s no paranoia in this place.
Leaving aside the fact that it’s illegal as hell, this place actually exists.
This magical den is hidden in D.F. deep within a six-story building that’s home to a warren of businesses. This address is a self-contained neighborhood, with everything from dentist’s offices to print shops where you can get a quinceñeara invite sketched onto a highball glass. Walk all the way to the top of the narrow flight of stairs and you will come to a family restaurant advertising breakfasts for 35 pesos, the equivalent of $2.28 in the United States. Grandparents, kids, and teens lounge in the small entrance room watching TV. Say hello to them and walk past to the rooftop.
There, you’ll find Weed Club, as my friends have come to call it. I won’t share its real name or those of its staff because I want to keep hanging out there. But I want you to know about it.
In Mexico, personal marijuana consumption is complicated. There is very little recreational weed culture here. Though I’m told the country produces some prime bud, most of this goes to wealthier customers in the United States. Mexican stoners are left with seedy bags that retail for about the equivalent of $3.25.
This buys you an amount of weed about the size of a deck of playing cards. It delivers a cheap, mellow high, if you can dodge the feeling that you’re participating in an industry that kills thousands of people a year — fatalities wrought by narcos and cops alike.
Here in the capital you are legally allowed to carry 5 grams, but famously corrupt cops rarely let that stop them from shaking you down, should you be caught smoking on the street.
Owners La Aranita and his cousin (I’ll call her) Angelita opened Weed Club so that stoners and users of other drugs would have a safe space to
“Addicts are all looking for places to be and to not bother anyone,” La Aranita told me one afternoon when I told him I wanted to interview him for a San Francisco cannabis newspaper. “Most are just looking for a little bit of privacy and space to do their activities.”
The cousins grew up on the streets, and like many in the area, started huffing industrial solvent to blunt the frustrations of poverty. They also realized they needed a safe place to chill. They started Weed Club a year ago, in some ramshackle rooms at the top of a building an acquaintance owns.
But something strange happened while renovating the decrepit space. As word spread and their clientele grew to include university students and other stoner artist types, La Aranita and Angelita stopped huffing solvent. With their new income, they found places to live and their kids were once again able to stay with their parents. Today, 15 members of the family, from three generations cook, clean, host, and build up Club.
Angelita still smokes weed, and La Aranita says it helped him kick his other habits.
“Alcohol, pills — marijuana helps me not to do as many rash things,” he said. “To think, rather than act. It’s an alternative to all those other addictions.”
There is some hard drug consumption in the space. During my visit on 4/20, everyone seemed to have missed the holiday memo and were doing enthusiastic lines of cocaine. But even so, chill stoner vibes prevail.
Weed Club is the anti-paranoia, a Hamsterdam maintained by tricky, contentious relationships with local law enforcement where you’re free to do what you want as long as you’re not bothering anyone else. On most days, this means people smoke joints and talk shit with friends. Artisans polish gems for sale on the streets and bleary-eyed writers scribble in notebooks.
Yes, I’m putting money into the local drug economy when I cop at Weed Club, which gets its supply from street dealers. But sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the local drug trade and local livelihood.
“Marijuana is really important to the economy of this neighborhood,” Aranita told me. “I think that drugs offer an alternative for kids.”
“Do you mean taking them, or selling them?” I ask.
“More than anything selling them. Looking for work is really hard for these kids. Legal alternatives … they’re hard to find. And it’s your own responsibility to know when to [do drugs] and when to leave your habit.”
And it’s a stoner’s responsibility to make the distinction between people suffering from, and making the best of, a bad situation. At Weed Club, there’s a spot in the sun.