"I have a lot of friends, but not a lot of intimacy. I haven't had sex in years. Pot gives you that [feeling of peace found in intimacy], and that's important when you have HIV."
He pauses, then muses, "It's so medicinal."
Mary gives the butter to "patients" like Walter once a week, typically sending 30 packages or more regularly to people suffering from pain. Neither clients nor patients ever visit Mary's home. Rather, she uses her own distribution system, delivering by hand. All of Mary's customers come from referrals.
Walter also shares Mary's hope for a shift in marijuana policy: "I think the state has no business telling us what to do with a plant," he declares. "The fact that it has slightly psychotropic properties — so what? So does alcohol.
"We need to free our country economically. Rural America could flourish if they could grow hemp and marijuana."
He also understands that "[Marijuana's] not for everyone. You have to have a head on your shoulders about what you do and when you're doing it."
So how do you keep a head on your shoulders when you are in chronic pain, raising three kids, and running an illegal marijuana-grow operation?
What about the children?
"[My brother and I] were 11 and 13 when we discovered it," Peter explains. "And mom and Joey said, 'This is what we have to do to support you.' They told us not to say a word to anyone. They were really straight up, and my brother and I were mature. We were more grateful than anything.
"It wasn't hard for her to tell us, because she knew we would understand the reason why she was doing it and we understood the importance," he says with a no-nonsense tone. "We understood the seriousness of the situation and respect her for it."
"Our daughter asked if we were growing cocaine in the basement," Mary recalls. "She was about nine. We just explained that [it was medicine] and that mommy can go to jail and don't tell anybody."
I ask Mary if she uses a security system, or if she is worried about her kids saying something in school. "Your security is your intelligence," Mary offers sincerely. "Your mind is your best weapon.
"I'm a mom. I'm raising good, ethical kids. It's hard work. I'm proud to show my kids how hard I work — and I told them they couldn't smoke till they were 18!"
Mary and Joey seem to be genuinely concerned parents — the kids say that Joey is like a father to them. They actively support their children in all their extracurricular activities, even making sweets for fundraisers (Joey's desserts were most popular with the football team — though they, of course, were not of the contraband variety) and sharing parental chaperoning duties on student field trips.
"Ya know, it's not guns and violence," Peter observes. "It's a job. It's gardening. They help people. They're not big, bad drug dealers. They're your friend's mom and dad. This is a way for a family to get by."
Peter is now a sophomore in college. He doesn't smoke often, and even if he did, his parents wouldn't provide the marijuana for him. ("What if his friends want to know where he got the weed?" asks Mary.) His brother, Luke, is also in college and has only smoked a few times. He says that he doesn't like it at all.