Rodrigo studied law, but never became a lawyer. The Mexican-American lives in Tijuana and works as a cannabis activist in California. He bounces between jobs. Depending on income, he smokes as much cannabis as possible.
35, Rodrigo laments how hard liquor leads him to spend money on friends and cocaine. He spends the most money on dates with his girlfriend.
Thanks to Mexican marijuana prices, he’s able to smoke cheap. He prefers US medical, and would only smoke that if he had the funds.
Raised in San Diego, Rodrigo has saved money living in the same place in Tijuana for seven years. A rough stretch once meant an entire year passed in which he failed to pay rent. His landlord said nothing. Does it depress him to be broke?
“Yes, it depresses me,” he says, “but, Tijuana makes it easier. I can make the money last.”
Rodrigo got paid the day before we spoke. Before payday, $4 were in his checking account. Now he had just under $1,000 which would need to last him until his next paycheck in two weeks.
“I am going to spend $500 this month on a co-working space in the heart of Tijuana I am trying to start with a friend,” he said. The co-working space has no workers, he said.
Rodrigo once laundered currency across the Tijuana-San Diego San Ysidro border. He profited from different exchange rates. He got caught crossing without declaring $30,000. He was making more money than ever. He’s now a convicted felon.
“Man, if I had to live in San Diego, I’d have to move to Tijuana,” the American citizen, and Tijuana resident, quipped.
47% of US based respondents to the Federal Reserve board’s recent tri-annual Survey of Consumer Finance revealed that, in the event of a small emergency, they would not have more than $400 set aside. They would borrow from friends, family or sell belongings. Fifty seven percent said they burned through most of their savings after the 2008 financial crisis.
In a 2015 Bankrate.com survey, 62 percent of respondents claimed to have fewer than $1000 in savings. 21 percent (mostly 35 through 54 year olds) had no savings account.
Older generations – especially those without money – have a hard time discussing money. MERRY JANE easily found stone broke cannabis users willing to talk financial misfortunes. Though like their older impecunious counterparts, they prefer to use pseudonyms.
No one knows how much former Lance Corporal Lew, 31, spent on marijuana before or after the marine corps, but he did smoke on a nearly daily basis. While without disability cheques last year, he lived residentially with the Veterans Administration for free boarding and housing.
“Obviously, I didn’t smoke during that period,” he told MERRY JANE. At present, Lew lives disability cheque to disability cheque, and therefore was not comfortable answering questions about current cannabis use. He admitted bouts with alcohol abuse had hurt his wallet far more than marijuana.
“I’ve never had a savings account even though I started working very young – around the age of ten,” he revealed.
Lew would mow neighbors lawns, babysit, do odds and ends and later gave swim lessons, all under the table. At the age of fourteen he started working in restaurants.
“On one side of town, I worked at the Chinese stir fry, and at the other side of town I flipped burgers,” the Fallujah combat veteran recalled. That has led to a longstanding restaurant “career,” one he since re-entered after his time in the marine corps.
“Somewhere in the 2007-08 collapse one needed to work twice as hard for half the money,” he said. “I live off of my service connected disability and am going back to school for retraining. It’s extremely difficult to get hired in the non-federal field as a combat veteran. A certain stigma goes with the history. After twenty years of work, I still don’t have a savings account.”
Long Beach City resident Edmond, who works in physical therapy, says he “had the luxury” of being disabled – he lost the use of his legs – and receive $800-$900 in disability per month.
“In Southern California, that might not even pay rent,” Edmond, 29, said. “I really struggled in marginal apartments.”
Now he makes “maybe” $2,000: “That doesn’t go too far either.”
Edmond says he is lucky there is public transportation to take him throughout Los Angeles. If he had to pay for a car outfitted for his disability, he’d be “flat broke each month.”
Currently working towards a masters, Edmond is now going into debt to improve his financial prospects. “It’s what it takes,” he said. “Pay at entry level jobs is a joke. If you’re single, and you’re trying to make it in So Cal, you need to pull in six figures with the tax implications. I do well with my disability, but it’s still a matter of scraping by.”
He buys marijuana from friends who harvest the plant in Northern California. They’ve supplied him since college. Marijuana doesn’t arrest Edmond’s budget too much. The self-admitted social alcoholic spends most of his money drinking. Edmond can spend a quad of marijuana (one month’s supply for him) worth of money in one night of drinking.
“I’ve lowered my alcohol intake,” he said. “Granted, today is Wednesday and I am going out tonight. And I will prob go out tomorrow and Friday. So, yeah, definitely alcohol is a greater detriment to my wallet and bank account than marijuana.” He contends marijuana saves him money.
“It helps me chill and take it easy, enjoy free festivals around Long Beach, concerts and art galleries,” the San Diego County native said. “With marijuana, I don’t get stuck in a bar. It helps me to be a bit more adventurous. It keeps me in check.”
Edmond injured himself drinking. It’d never have happened stoned, he says. No chronic pain, smoking bud just gives him “more enjoyment of life.”
“I just like to get stoned every once in awhile, relax and not worry about money or fucking whatever it might be with how expensive So Cal is,” he says. “Marijuana brings me back to the old school Cali’ days of enjoying the beach and enjoying life.”
“I’m not gonna be poor i always have enough to do what i want to do. Maybe i dont have a lot of savings i always have enough to get all my things.”