When I was living in Massachusetts marijuana became a luxury item. Something that was rare, something you often had to work for. A guy at your work would “know a kid that could get it, he’s gonna meet us at this parking lot at this time and oh wait he texted and said it’s not gonna happen today” Fast forward to two weeks later and you were back, texting people in their 20’s that looked like they worked at Taco Bell and wait “yeah we gotta meet him at Taco Bell on Highland Ave between 8:00 PM and 9:30 PM” Wait, I have to hang out with you guys for ninety minutes? The idea of going into a store and buying marijuana is the stuff of me and my Ozzy (baseball) jerseyed friends in 1983’s dreams. But here it is 2015 in California.
When I first arrived here I visited some friends in San Francisco. My friend’s boyfriend had a “card” and after dinner one night we stood outside of his car and smoked a “prerolled” which is basically a joint you buy. These particular ones he had were packaged all fancy and professional looking. He offered to get me some. The next day we met up and after using an app called Weed Maps we drove to a “dispensary” I said “just get me like sixty dollars worth of joints whatever that is” He returned a few minutes later with a little paper white bag that literally said “Pharmacy” on it. Like the bags you get when you go and get an anti-biotic because something happened to your body. Inside the bag were five plastic tubes with joints in them. I smoked part of one of these on my drive back to Los Angeles and thought I might drive off a mountain so I stopped after a couple hits.
When I returned to Los Angeles I decided to see how easy it would be to get one of these “recommendations” (you don’t necessarily get a “card” but what’s called a “recommendation letter” I looked online for good reviews and prices and settled on one abut twenty minutes from me and this is exactly what happened:
On one of the busier stretches of Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley is a tight little strip mall with tiny parking spaces and as usual an odd mix of shops: weed doctor, donut shop, cellphone repair shop, a restaurant from a country you’ve never heard of and a (closed) Mexican restaurant. Just as I get out of the car a large man is vaping outside of the store next to the weed doctor place. “Weren’t you just here an hour ago?” he asks me through a puff of sweet smoke that smells of cookies. But like shitty Mrs Fields mall cookies. “No I wasn’t” “Are you sure?” he asks again, which is generally one of the worst things a person can ask you when you are so sure of something. Ignore him and go into the weed doctor place where I’m greeted by the smell of marijuana. I wasn’t aware they have marijuana in these places as this is just where you get the recommendation letter so you can go and buy it. At the reception desk are two women in their 20’s, although I think the one I dealt with was probably in her 30’s. One of them is talking about a tattoo she got the night before, the other one addresses me. I immediately think of Fran Drescher. Hair pulled back tight, in some sort of business suit but with high heels. The other girl was wearing a blazer with what appeared to be just a bra under it. This was the first time I felt like “eww this is what LA is like in nightmares” She gave me some paperwork to fill out just like a real doctor’s office. As I sat down the vape/weren’t you here earlier guy comes in and goes behind the counter. He is apparently the security guard. I guess he didn’t do a good job. He let me in “twice” The paperwork had questions asking about what was wrong with me, if I had ever tried marijuana, if I knew it was illegal for me to buy it and then resell it, etc. As I was sitting there two men walked in and were motioned into the back from Cookie Vaping dude. One of the men had a bag with him. They left a few minutes later empty handed. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t look Eastern European.
I handed in my paperwork. Within three minutes Fran Drescher came out and called me in. I sat at her desk as she interviewed me for a few minutes, rarely looking up as she filled out what would end up being the recommendation letter. So it was decided before she even read my paperwork that I needed one of these recommendations for back pain. I legitimately do have chronic issues with my back but I know I’ve smoked marijuana in the past and it did nothing for my back. It made live versions of No Quarter by Led Zeppelin pretty intense though. At one point during our chat the woman even joked “it’s not like we’re doing actual doctor work here” was I somehow deemed cool enough to be let in on the joke or did she just slip up? She finally stopped writing and handed me the sheet of paper and made eye contact with me. She instructed me “you can’t buy more than eight ounces and keep it in your trunk” (I think it was eight ounces) Either way, from the time I got out of the car to the time I got back into my car it was about twenty minutes. I could now buy marijuana and anything with marijuana in it legally because I was sick and it would help me get through my condition.
I found a dispensary the night before near my house and as with the “doctor’s office” I was immediately hit with the smell of marijuana the second I walked in. There was a small waiting room with a young Mexican man behind a window. I could see the tattooed arms of a young woman staring at a smart phone to his right. I gave him my California driver’s license and my recommendation letter. He handed me a clipboard where I barely read a bunch of statements and agreed or disagreed with them. A minute later I was buzzed into the area. It was a little overwhelming at first, two long counters with three girls working behind there which I learned were called “budtenders” (I know…) The clientele there were about three or four young healthy looking men. Tan, dressed well in their summer hip kids clothes. No sick looking people with like glaucoma pouring out of their eyes on to their faded Jefferson Airplane shirts. Just a bunch of young kids that are going to buy high quality weed and then whip away into the hills to get high at a pool somewhere. As with any new food establishment I go into I felt immediately pressure to order something so I just found the stupidest sounding “strain” I could find and went with that. So yeah I went with the “Chuck Norris OG”
I guess the stuff worked. On one occasion I stopped at a stop sign and sat there waiting for it to turn green. I was there for maybe twenty seconds before I realized I had zoned out. I guess the warning not to drive is correct. The other instance I knew it worked was when for one night I liked a Drake song I heard. Now I did hear it the following day and immediately had to somehow unhear it. I don’t have it in me as a forty-five year old man to like anything by Drake, ever. A few days later I realized my back didn’t have the pains it had before. I generally would feel them after waking up in the morning. Who gives a shit about my back though really? Let’s talk about weed. When I first left that dispensary it was like that scene in Half Baked when Dave Chappelle signs for the weed at the hospital. The excitement of this whole thing has since worn off and I am currently not really using any of it since I am job hunting.
The fact that they take this whole medical marijuana thing so serious and have all the strict rules is kind of a joke. When you’re selling something called “Am-Trac” because it will make you “feel like you got hit by a train yo” (overheard in dispensary) you’re not selling medicine for someone to get better you’re selling recreational drugs so people can escape for a little while. I don’t have cancer but I imagine if I did the last thing I’d want was to feel like I got hit by a train. Whether you abuse it is your own thing but the whole culture embarrasses me so I find it hard to be a hardcore “weed guy” at this point. The fact that I can get it now whenever I want and if a friend visiting wanted it I could be that guy is great and all but really, crutches to escape always end up wearing out.