For some people in Los Angeles’ homeless community, a dime bag of weed can make a small but welcome difference. Last spring, partially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sidewalk Project began gifting grams of cannabis to the unhoused people it works with, an informal practice dubbed the “secret handshake.”
Soma Snakeoil, co-founder of the LA-based harm reduction organization, said that it’s a small gesture, but also that it can mean a lot to homeless people in the city, a group that’s staring down regular camp removals on top of the overdose and COVID-19 pandemics.
“It’s just a kind thing to do. It provides relief.”
For some people, the secret handshake is a way to relax; for others, it’s a quick but positive human interaction. For those who experience opioid withdrawal, the grams of weed can also be a bit of a respite, Snakeoil said. “It’s just a kind thing to do. It provides relief.”
According to Snake-oil, the program has quickly become popular. So far, she estimates that the Sidewalk Project has given out close to a thousand secret handshakes to members of the community. “[There’s] like the biggest smile on people’s faces. There’s one woman who actually dances,” she told Filter.
Sidewalk project volunteers and workers regularly hand out the evergreen gifts as they make their rounds talking with community members or visiting tents. However, according to Snake-oil, it’s not uncommon now for homeless people in the city to stop and ask staffers for the secret handshake on the street.
California legalized marijuana for adult use in 2016. However, because of legal limits on cannabis production and the amounts one person can give to another, the flow of the material components of the secret handshake is somewhat slow. Additionally, despite many favorable anecdotal reports, research suggests that it’s currently not possible to say definitively that cannabis is a perfect tool in mitigating opioid withdrawal.
Published: February 01, 2021
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News