“That’s f*cking oregano and glue. What an a**hole.” I can’t say she didn’t warn me, but alas, here I was with the stickiest of icky on my fingers … courtesy of Elmer’s. My travel partner tried to deter me from purchasing “weed” from the charming man with a penchant for negotiation, but you know, research and all. So I handed over my $25 Euro, a deal I naively thought after his initial $60 euro opening offer.
One thing you’ll quickly learn visiting Portugal, specifically Lisbon and Porto, is how readily available “marijuana” is. Tourists of all backgrounds will likely be accosted by numerous dealers on an afternoon stroll through the cities more touristic areas; and if you’re a person of color such as myself, I imagine that’s amplified. Old men, young women, Turkish, African, Portuguese … the dealers in Portugal come in surprising varieties. But let me offer you this advice, under no circumstance should you ever buy weed from any of these individuals. They’re skilled in duping tourists eagerly hunting down a joint to smoke during one of the country’s majestic sunsets.
But this, of course, isn’t just my personal experience … the idea of even trying to procure marijuana was baked inside my head by locals during interviews about regional travel tips. They all warned us of the strangers whispering “Cocaine? Weed?” as they methodically cross your path. They’ll give you a nugget to smell, which is definitely the real thing, and then quickly slide you a sealed baggie full of effervescent, glued seasoning. Oregano.
“People visiting will be surprised to learn that you can get marijuana here. It’s legal to smoke. But what these guys are selling is not weed, it’s maybe hash sometimes or just plain fake other times,” one local foreshadowed in the days leading up to my experiment.
While most dealers are peddling junk, you can find maybe one in fifty selling the real thing. Are those the kind of odds you would be comfortable gambling against? “Don’t bother with that stuff here. Get a bottle of wine or a beer or something” another local offered as a safer and readily available solution. “You can drink on the streets here and no one will bother you.”
A lesson taught and understood. My final time being offered a sack in Porto – cider in hand – I replied, “Get out of here with that fake sh*t.” The dealer smiled and acquiesced. The jig was up.
Eric has revolved in and out of passport controls for over 20 years. From his first archaeological field school in Belize to rural villages in Ethiopia and Buddhist temples in Laos, Eric has come smile to smile with all walks of life. A writer, photographer and entrepreneur, the LA native believes the power of connectivity and community is enriched through travel.