It feels like the first time: Alaskans recount their early experiences with cannabis

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Whether we’re committed daily wake and bakers, the occasional edible eater or former stoners who used to love it but gave it up long ago, most of us still remember the thrill of discovering the joys of weed for the first time. Granted, our recollection may be a little hazy, but that seems to depend largely on the strength of the weed and how much time has passed since we first smoked it.

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first got stoned, but I was still in middle school. I know I didn’t feel a thing the first 10 times or 15 times I smoked, which was probably because the only weed I could get my hands on was some really crappy homegrown I found in the back of a little-used kitchen cabinet at our house on Becker Ridge in Fairbanks.

The magic moment finally arrived after my three older brothers took pity on me and shared some of their Colombian Gold, which was filled with stems and seeds and in reality was probably herbicide-soaked Oaxacan from Mexico. One night they decided to smoke me out in the eldest’s blue 1974 Dodge Charger, which was parked in our driveway near our old chicken coop. We had the windows rolled up because it was summer and the mosquitoes were thick, so the car was filled with smoke.

We didn’t realize (or maybe we forgot; it was pretty good weed) that our cat, Elsa, was in the car with us. So, kitty got stoned too, which she proved by trying to jump through a closed car window. We made sure she was fine, let her out and went inside to watch the “Tonight Show.” Johnny Carson was still the host then, and I remember thinking he was so much funnier than usual. His head also seemed to be surrounded by a fuzzy nimbus of golden light, which was puzzling but definitely added an extra dimension to the evening.

In honor of an entire month of 4/20, Alaska Cannabist decided to ask a variety of people — from cannabis industry insiders to notable Alaskans — to share their first weed experiences. We are featuring their stories in this month’s magazine.

Contact Alaska Cannabist staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582 or


David Guttenberg


David Guttenberg, retired laborer, former legislator, currently evolving

The first time I smoked pot is different from the first time I got high. It was 1966 or ’67. I don’t remember who I smoked pot with the first time, but I remember it took me a long time to get high. 

My friends would come get me and say, “You’ve got to get high. I know you’re smoking the stuff because I’ve watched you.” 

And they’d get me and give me a joint and I’d go into a closet or someplace. And they’d say, “You’re not high yet, I can tell,” and I’d shrug my shoulders. 

Then one day they said, “Oh, yeah, you’re high now.” I think I was laughing or coughing or something.

I haven’t smoked pot since April 1978. Here’s the part that people think is funny. I came off a job on the North Slope at the end of April of that year, and it’s like, “This is no fun anymore.” And I stopped. 

And people said, “Wait a second, you came off a job on the Slope where you were smoking pot and now you’re going to quit?” 

I didn’t smoke when I was working, but at night we’d smoke a lot of good pot and people would drink. I just tired of it. And I don’t like getting drunk or high at all. I think when you get older it all gets harder.

Ryan Walker


Ryan ‘Kachemak’ Walker, lead cultivator at Red Run Cannabis Company in Kenai

I grew up in Homer, and my whole entire life weed was really prevalent and pretty accepted. 

As I was growing up my great grandma and some other people I knew died from emphysema, so I was pretty shot on smoking. I just kind of lumped weed in with cigarettes. 

My neighbors and everyone were growing it, so as I kid I didn’t even know it was illegal because so many people I knew were doing it. I thought it was adult people growing their own cigarettes. I grew up as a Mormon kid, so I never even drank alcohol until I was 17 or 18.

I made as much money as my parents did at my job at a plant store. And I commercial fished, so I was a busy working teenager. I didn’t have time for alcohol or for smoking cigarettes, and weed was not on the top of my list.

One time when I was 16 or so my buddy had some weed that was pretty much just fan leaves that he stole from his parents or something. 

I was like, “You guys are dumb for smoking that,” but they coaxed me into taking a hit. It was gross and nasty and didn’t get me high. I maybe got a little bit of a headache.

When I was about 19 or 20 or so, some of my really good friends were really into weed. We were in a Jeep and they had a 2- or 3-foot bong and we were just driving around, doing big bong rips up at the park. 

That’s where everybody smoked back then, and they probably still do. I was in the back seat and they were like, “You have to smoke this or you’re a narc.” So I gave into that pressure. It was super dank. They made me rip that huge-ass bong and I took one or two hits and I was pretty much done for. I just rode around staring out the window for about three hours until I could form sentences again. 

I immediately started smoking weed after that. I loved it. I was like, “What the fuck you guys, how come you never made me smoke this shit before?”

Martin Christiansen


Martin Christiansen, co-owner of Fire Eater Edibles in Kenai

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the first time I got “high” high. It was so long ago. 

I’m from Utah and it was pretty repressive, so I didn’t really get stoned until I was 25, when I came up here. I remember more about my first dab more than anything. That was the time I spent hours drooling. 

I’d been a lightweight, and I was always that dude that would go to the party and we’d pass the bowl around once and I’d have to skip it the rest of the time because I had no tolerance. 

At the time, dabs were still kind of underground, and you had to know the dealer who knew somebody with a laboratory. 

So someone rolls in and said, “This is dabs,” and I was like “What’s dabs?” 

Then weed got legalized and I’m meeting all of these new people. I met this it guy named Justin, who later developed Einstein Labs, and he gave me my very first dab.

We were having a party, and it’s like 1 or 2 in the morning and everybody’s hanging out. 

I did just one tiny little dab on the tip of a dab pick, and that was enough. It was like I’d smoked a whole joint, just instantly. 

It was the difference between rolling down the street and taking a rocket. I was higher than a kite. 

It was that kind of night when you look at your fingers and say “Why are hands shaped liked this? Is water wet?” It was a great night.


Kolbe Rose


Kolbe Rose, sales director for Stoney Moose and Stoney Moose Kitchens

My first time I was 17 and I had never tried it before. I always kind of was a bit of a straight arrow and my parents were very strict. 

I moved out and was on my own at 17 and I went to my sister and said “I want to try weed and I think that you’re the one I want to try it with.” She’s 15 years older and had been partaking for years and years, so she was miles ahead of me. 

She said “I’ll heat up the Volcano vaporizer and we’re going to do this right.” She smoked me out on her homegrown, organic, delicious, super-heavy bud. 

You know how they say some people don’t get high the first time? Well, I got high the first time. It was special and definitely a good start to my relationship with cannabis. 

It was 100% positive. We were sitting on a comfy couch, we were watching something on NatGeo, and my brother-in-law is a crazy good cook so he made us some yummy snacks. 

And I just remember eating a whole bunch and my sister saying “How do you feel, Kolbe?” because I got a little quiet. I’m like, “Goooood. It’s like a light sort of heavy, or a heavy sort of light.” And she said, “Oh, that’s a really apt description.”

David Resch


David Resch, former lead guitarist with 80s Alaska metal band and three-time recording artists Pandemonium. Member of Benefield Blues Band in Fairbanks

I think I was 14. We —me, my brother Chris and all of our cousins — walked home from the school bus stop. I think it was spring because it was muddy. 

Our cousin had one of her friends with her, and they asked us if we’d ever smoked pot before. 

Me and Chris were like, “Um, no,’”and they said, “You guys want to try it?” and we said, “Sure!” 

The four of us went into the barn, and it’s all muddy and there’s cow poop everywhere and we’re surrounded by barnyard smells. In fact, still to this day, I equate getting stoned with the smell of cow shit. 

We smoked a joint. We hacked and coughed and I remember feeling stoned right away. 

Later on, after they left, is the first time I heard Black Sabbath stoned. I’d always heard that music sounded great when you were stoned, so I put on headphones and played “Master of Reality.” 

A band I already loved gained a whole new level! I could hear the squeaks of their fingers on the strings and squeak of the springs on the drum pedals. I could hear everything.


McCann & Farleigh


Payton McCann and Ben Farleigh, creators of Best Budz, a radio show originally based in Anchorage. Best Budz is now livestreamed from New York City, where the two friends are pursuing careers in standup comedy. 

Payton McCann’s story

The first time I smoked weed I was an exchange student in Brazil. I was a sophomore in high school and living in Brasilia. I was 16 and had been a pretty sheltered kid growing up. At one point I went on a month-long tour in the northeast of Brazil, so basically all of the best beaches and beach towns. They put us on a bus with about 40 exchange students from around the world, and everyone on my bus spoke English. There was another bus where German was the predominant language.

I lost my virginity on that very trip, so basically it was one of the best months of my life. Towards the middle of the trip we had this big get-together with another bus of exchange students and we were all hanging out. We were talking by the fire and people were playing music, and one of the guys from the other bus said “Hey, you guys want to smoke some weed?” 

This girl I was kind of hanging out with said, “I’m going!” so I said, “All right, let’s do it.” They took us into this weird old Brazilian house that looked like a family home. We walked upstairs into a bathroom and they had this bubbler that was filled with Malibu Rum, so when I smoked it, it tasted like coconut and pineapple. I know a lot of people say they don’t get high their first time, but I got so, so high. It was really good weed and it was a great setting. But I immediately started panicking, thinking everyone knew that I was high. If they were looking at me, I was like, “Oh my god, they know, they know, they know. Just keep it cool.” 

So I just closed my eyes and lay down by the fire and listened to the this girl playing country songs and old hymns on an acoustic guitar. She was a good singer, and I’d never heard music sound so good before. I thought, “I think I’m gonna be doing this for a while. I think this fits.”

There were so many cool artistic kids that were there, and they were basically misfits that wanted to go out and experience something new. So for the next couple of days after that we would all just go down to the beach, smoke a joint and make sandwiches. It was the best. And then someone got caught with a bong in their room with three days to go on the whole tour and they sent us home early.


Ben Farleigh’s story

My story isn’t as cool as Payton’s. It starts a little more locally, and I remember exactly where I was. 

Me and some friends were hanging out at the park at 10th and E (in Anchorage) getting ready to play some hockey or something. 

There was this girl at school, and me and one of my best friends at the time both had a super crush on her. She had this hot pink race car that was real low to the ground... She was like the coolest person ever, and she drives up to the park strip super fast, rolls down the window and says, ‘Hey, you guys want to smoke some weed?” 

Everybody was like, “Uh, I’m good,” and they did not expect me to say, “Hell, yeah!” I really go for those movie-type moments, so I figured it was as good a time as any.

Mind you, my dad had been smoking weed my whole life growing up, and all he did was sit on the couch and watch golf. So weed to me didn’t seem like it was going to be super awesome. I thought weed was like a super lame drug, not a cool, dangerous thing.

We just drove around and drove to Valley of the Moon park and we smoked some weed. I don’t remember if I got high at all. I remember doing it wrong. I couldn’t even use the pipe correctly and didn’t know what a carb was. 

So the first time I smoked, it was pretty cool leading up to it, but the getting high part was kind of ‘whatever.’ The first time I got super high was the second time I smoked weed. We went over to my friend’s house, and he was a big stoner. His sister’s boyfriend was there, and he was a super stoner, kind of burnout kind of dude. He said, “You guys want to get super high?” He ended up rolling up five blunts in a row, and we smoked for a solid three hours, just watching movies and stuff. 

I remember it was the first time in my life when weed made me pretty much catatonic. But then the slightest giggle from my friend would set me off into a giggle and it would roll into gut-busting laughter and we’d wouldn’t be able to stop laughing. I went from the first time I smoked being like almost nothing to the second time I smoked being an obscene amount of pot and being absolutely gone.

John Collette



John Collette, owner of Ester Horticulture and Research in Fairbanks

I can’t remember the very first time I got stoned. It recedes in the history, and it was really crappy weed. We were of the generation where, before we’d go to the Upper Limits, (a popular downtown Fairbanks teenage nightclub run by Dave and Dot Resch from 1964 to 1970) we’d chip in and get a pint of vodka. 

We know what it was like to be completely ripped, so getting stoned was no revelation. But, remember, that was the days of psychoactive drugs. 

LSD was completely legal in 1967 and pot wasn’t. You don’t forget the first time you take LSD, but in comparison, weed wasn’t earth-shattering at all. The heavier duty pots now are kind of psychedelic, though.

I think the most memorable time I ever smoked pot was on the Great Wall of China. Every time I went anywhere, I would take black Lebanese hash, because you can plaster the hash to the inside of your Levi’s pocket and then just peel a little bit off whenever you want to get stoned. 

And you can make a pipe out of anything. I’d take my metal 35 mm film canister, which had a convenient little hole in the end of it. I’ve traveled all over the world like that. I was alone on the highest spot I could get on the Great Wall.

 There was no one there, the likelihood of me getting caught was zero, and I thought, “This is kind of cool.”

 It was a neat experience. It was six months before Tiananmen Square, so the culture was really opening up and people weren’t running around in fear of the authorities at that time.

Cody Coman



Cody Coman, co-owner of Trich Productions in Anchorage

It was probably like 2002 or 2003, and one of our cousins was in the first live judging round of “American Idol,” so we all went out to Hollywood to stay the night and watch her sing the next day. 

At the time, both of my younger brothers were already smoking. 

We had a mutual friend and he and my brother came up to the hotel and dropped a 1 gallon Ziploc bag filled with 200 or 300 hand-rolled joints. They said, “It’s time to party!” 

We go down into the alley and they convinced me it’s time to try some cannabis. So I asked them how to do it, and they said, “Here’s a joint and lighter, light that up and start puffing on it.” And they’re puffing on their own joints. They start cracking up and I’m like, ‘I’m not feeling anything. How much of this do I need to do?’ 

So I finished that joint and they gave me another one. I’m choking these joints down and coughing and coughing.

 I finally started feeling something, so we head back up to the room. 

It must have been a sativa because by the time we got up to the room I’m bouncing off the walls, laughing and jumping back and forth on the queen size beds. 

On one of the jumps I slipped and fell to the floor and my head hit the carpet, which was really thin.

Instantly my head was just throbbing, like “Whaaw, whaaw, whaaw.” 

So I’m staring at the ceiling and my thoughts are going a thousand miles an hour. 

Everybody’s like, “Hey, we’re going shopping, you want to come?” And I’m just silent, on the floor and staring at the ceiling. They left me there, and when they got back two hours later, I was still lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling. They opened the door and started laughing. 

I don’t remember the whole two hours, but I remember feeling like I was floating in space and thinking far off thoughts. 

Definitely stoned. No music, no TV, dead silence. It was nighttime, so there were a couple of lamps on, but that was it. I remember having a feeling of dizziness. Looking back, I probably had a mild concussion.

I enjoyed the part about being stoned and going up into the hotel, but once I hit my head it stopped being enjoyable. But that kicked off a myriad of adventures, and I knew I had fun because it didn’t deter me. 

I didn’t feel like it was a negative thing. I just remember having very spacey thoughts and that floaty feeling, and thinking, “Wow, this is wild.”



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