Sober People Who Make Their Living Dealing Pot

By Kristen McGuiness 08/02/11

Can you be in recovery from your own addictions while still selling marijuana? A slew of industry veterans see no problem with that.

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I am sitting across from Paul in the marijuana grow shop where he works. Paul has the heavy goatee and Dodgers cap that one would come to expect from a marijuana grower, but he is different in one major way from many of his colleagues: he is five years sober. He explains that he started growing eight years back, before he got sober. “My wife had cancer and it was so expensive to get the medical marijuana so I decided to start growing it on my own,” he explains. “It turned into a bigger thing because we had leftovers and began to sell it to collectives. At that time, it became our biggest income source.

But Paul’s recovery didn’t give him an easy way to pay the bills. “I’m not ashamed at all to say what I do because we are a legitimate business,” he says. “My best friend has been sober five months and he’s bartending. I can’t do that, but this isn’t a problem. It’s my job. Though I don’t make as much money as I used to, which is why I now also work at the grow shop, this is what I do for a living. My pastor who was 30 years sober told me that as long as what I was doing was legal, it was fine, and so I make sure I stick to that. “Here I am six years sober, and I have this two-foot cola in front of me and I am clipping it, not smoking it.”

Paul is not alone. In 2006, California produced over eight million pounds of marijuana and that number is only growing. And as more folks are getting into the marijuana industry, people in recovery are joining their ranks. Michael is over 10 years sober, and though he doesn’t grow himself, he has been clipping marijuana plants for a fellow sober grower for over four years. With a slight build and Hollywood good looks, he explains that it took some time to get used to. “I needed work so I put the word out and a friend asked me if I would help clip buds,” he recalls. “It was strange at first because it was once something I really loved to do. I started smoking when I was 13, I read High Times—it was my church as a teen and into my late twenties—and I thought the world of it. And here I am six years sober, and I have this two-foot cola in front of me and I am clipping it, not smoking it.”

Michael says that his current career gives him have a greater understanding of powerlessness. “I know that the power alcohol and an assortment of narcotics gave me no longer provide me with the same power,” he says. “Of course, if I was to smoke a joint, I would get high or if I drank, I would get drunk. But the aftermath of that choice—depression, no sleeping—would come back ten-fold. Knowing and believing that those things don’t offer me a solution anymore allows me to work with and believe in this gift from our earth: marijuana.”

Michael and Paul both maintain that they can be both sober and supporters of legalization. “I believe that drugs should be legal, especially marijuana,” says Michael. “We should be taxing marijuana, and using it towards rehabilitation for alcoholics and addicts. Also by legalizing it, we could be helping our neighbor Mexico with the drug wars. At the end of the day, our demand for drugs, and their illegalization, are creating those problems.”

“I think it’s a great thing for people to get involved in activism and be a part of something you believe in—not just because you want to get high or get rich, but because you recognize the health benefits of this important drug,” adds Paul. “I would much rather be taking something natural than a pharmaceutical, and I know a lot of sober people who would agree with that in theory. There is a woman at my church who has multiple sclerosis and she’s in a wheelchair and I have some older friends who I give it to for free. The majority of the time, my work is about being able to help people—not about people getting loaded.”

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Kristen McGuiness is the author of the bestselling memoir, 51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life. In addition, she has co-written numerous books in the genres of self-help, business, psychology, and dating, and has written for Marie ClaireAOLHuffington Post, and Salon. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and dog Peter, and recently finished her second book, The Beautiful Lives of Sad Children. Kristen can be found on Linkedin. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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