Before the internet, being Disabled could be incredibly isolating, especially on days that make it difficult to get outside due to weather, pain, fatigue or other disability-related issues. The internet has been creating connections, spaces and communities that bring even the most marginalized together in new and innovative ways. Chronic Loaf is one such place. Started by marijuana activist MaeLee Johnson, a Black Disabled Queer woman from California, the community strives to be a safe haven for anyone chronically ill, Disabled or Deaf/HOH.
Chronic Loaf is open to anyone. However, it was the disability community and Johnson’s own experience growing up chronically ill and Disabled that led to the creation of the 24/7 stream. Johnson used to watch a lot of television alone when she was stuck at home growing up, so she’s always been a television and film nerd. This influenced her to start a community where she could do so with others.
According to Johnson, “Chronic Loaf is an online community that runs 24/7.” She thought of the idea of live-tweeting on Twitter while people were watching things together, but soon realized that because many Disabled people had “unconventional sleeping patterns, and the overall functioning of Disabled and chronically ill people” was not always cohesive with set schedules; she would have to do something else if she truly wanted to make her idea accessible.
After realizing that a traditional schedule wasn’t going to work for her, or the community, Johnson — who is also a daily cannabis user — decided to find a way to combine her love of chronic culture and nerd culture with her desire to watch movies and films with others. She saw a need in the community for this space, especially for those going through flares, pain, exhaustion or isolation, but finding the solution wasn’t something she was able to do right away.
Then, in 2017, Johnson learned about Rabb.it from a friend, streamer Tito Hutchinson (@titotitoq85). She discovered that for her idea of watching media together to be accessible, it would have to run 24/7. It wasn’t until she found Rabb.it that her dreams were able to become a reality. It takes a lot of time and energy to run the stream, and Johnson has been doing so tirelessly, without much money or support. She has a few people who help her, but ultimately, it depends on her for the stream to run.
Chronic Loaf is a way for people to “come to smoke and hang out with other stoners,” Johnson says, while relaxing, chatting and streaming all kinds of media. The community uses a website called Rabb.it, which allows people from all over the world to watch and chat by voice, text or video. Johnson says many people chill on camera, often for the first time with others.
Chronic Loaf shows everything, from the recent Oscars broadcast to popular movies like those from the Marvel universe to television and animated features. Johnson even co-hosted the Chronic Loaf Disability Film Festival on the stream back in September 2018.
She also explained that running the stream has taught her a lot about the difference between recreational weed use and medical use. She feels Chronic Loaf is a good way to educate recreational users about medical use.
“If you are a medical marijuana user, you are able to come to a place [Chronic Loaf] where people can help you get through your session so that you medicate enough to allow you to function throughout the day,” Johnson says. “Recreational users don’t realize that we have to smoke past the point of just feeling high, and it’s almost like a chore. It really helps to have people keeping you focused, reminding you to stay on task and smoking with you. Sometimes you just need somewhere to go while you wait for an edible to kick in and your pain to subside.”
If you’d like to join Chronic Loaf, this is what you need to do, according to Johnson:
“The #ChronicLoaf streamis hosted on the Rabb.it website. They also have an app called Rabbit Together. You can make a quick account and then either come to rabb.it online or search for ChronicLoaf on the app.”