What It's Like To Buy Medical Marijuana

  What It's Like To Buy Medical Marijuana

Posted by CN Staff on April 26, 2008 at 05:08:34 PT
By Sandy Banks 
Source: Los Angeles Times 

Los Angeles, CA -- The advertising flier left no doubt about its pitch: a giant marijuana leaf with a phone number that ended GOT KUSH. A friend's teenage daughter brought it home from last weekend's Earth Day celebration on the Santa Monica Pier. What else would I expect from a concert held on 4/20 -- a shorthand reference to smoking pot -- that featured reggae artist Ziggy Marley, son of Bob?
"Have you or anyone else experienced an illness for which you believe marijuana could provide relief?" the flier read. "If you don't qualify for a recommendation, your visit is free." I'd seen similar ads before. Walk along the Venice boardwalk and it's hard to not get handed one of those head-shop postcards promising instant approval to smoke marijuana. I'd dismissed the claim as a marketing gimmick. But it left me wondering: Could you really just walk in off the street and get marijuana?The West Hollywood clinic took walk-in patients, so I stopped by Wednesday afternoon. I rode the elevator up with a brawny man in a wheelchair and the middle-aged woman accompanying him. We made small talk about the heat wave and the difficulty of finding a place to park.In the waiting room, I filled out a sheaf of forms, accurately answering questions about my medical history, current symptoms and past use of cannabis. I gave the polite, tattooed man behind the counter my driver's license, credit card and a coupon giving me a $25 discount on the $175 exam. Fifteen minutes later, I was greeted by the doctor, a silver-haired man in a white lab coat, his name embroidered across the front. Diplomas lined the wall behind him. On his desk was a collection of family photos.He looked over my medical forms and asked about the arthritis I'd noted. I told him the truth. Some days my fingers are so stiff it hurts to grip a doorknob or a steering wheel. I'd tried prescription drugs in the past, but stopped because of the side effects. The doctor inspected my swollen fingers, gently squeezing the tender joints. He checked my pulse and blood pressure, then took a stethoscope and listened to my lungs. His 10-minute exam was about as thorough as the one I'd received last year from the hand specialist at the orthopedic center, who sent me home with Celebrex.This new doctor told me marijuana could help. He recommended I not smoke it. Bad for the lungs. Better to use it with a vaporizer. Or ingest it, infused in tea or baked in brownies. Then he handed me a prescription for marijuana. Good for one year; no refill limits.I don't know why I was surprised. I'm the kind of person covered by the state's 1996 Compassionate Use Act, which allows the use of medicinal marijuana in California. The law allows physicians to recommend marijuana for the treatment of "cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief." I was with the 56% of California voters who approved the law 12 years ago. It's not my place to judge an adult who chooses a bong hit over Vicodin.So why did I feel vaguely criminal as I stuffed my cannabis card -- resembling a tiny passport, embossed with a marijuana leaf -- in my wallet?Because I'm from a generation in which marijuana was plainly illegal and thus the province of the young -- clandestinely purchased with a wad of singles, smoked with a rowdy crowd of buddies, accompanied by laughter and loud music.And because I've heard from friends -- and my own teenage daughters -- that getting a cannabis card at 18 has become a rite of passage in some quarters.Why bother trying to find a dope dealer when you can shop for weed at a place as familiar as a mini-mart?I was buzzed in at the marijuana dispensary across the street from the doctor's office. I handed my prescription to a hand that reached out through a hole in a black-glass window that I couldn't see through. I was buzzed in through a second door and stood dumbstruck in front of a counter with more than a dozen varieties of marijuana on display. A thin young man with a ponytail explained the different types and their effects on the body and mind, just like those pamphlets I get when I pick up my blood pressure and cholesterol medications from Rite-Aid.I was struck by how ordinary it all seemed, trying to decide between marijuanas. A sativa or an indica? I felt like I was at the apple bin at Trader Joe's choosing between Fuji and Gala. I left with a red vial of sweet-smelling Yumbolt, at $55 for an eighth of an ounce. I carried it home in the trunk of my car, convinced that every cop I passed could tell I was transporting marijuana. At home, I couldn't get the bottle open. My fingers weren't strong enough to pop the top. Which is just as well. I'm not going to smoke it. The feds don't recognize California's medical marijuana law. The DEA has been raiding dispensaries here; I don't want federal agents knocking on my door. So, on Friday, I brought the bottle into my office and my editor watched me flush it down the toilet.The experience left me with so much to think about, it's best I'm clear-headed while I work through it.Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)Author: Sandy BanksPublished: April 26, 2008Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives

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Comment #15 posted by John Tyler on April 27, 2008 at 20:34:12 PT
system is working
Sound to me like the system is working the way it was intended. This person can’t seem to come to grips with the paradigm shift that has taken place while she wasn’t looking. Her naiveté seems strange and out of place for someone living in L.A. and working at the L.A. Times. 
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Comment #14 posted by mykeyb420 on April 27, 2008 at 15:23:11 PT
Welcome to my world
This is what I have had access to for the past 14 years. Which is odd since we've had our compassionate use act of 1996 for 12 years. We, ( SF CA ) are ahead of the curve. I think if more of america had safe access to med-pot, we would all live longer. Then we could vote more. I wish the politicians could realize this.
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Comment #13 posted by Hope on April 26, 2008 at 18:07:18 PT

Thank you.I thought she laid out her fears that she felt doing what she did, pretty well.She didn't seem to judge the doctor or the recommendation filling harshly at all.She was a nervous, conflicted wreck and she knows why. I think.
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Comment #12 posted by BioDynamic on April 26, 2008 at 16:12:08 PT

Sandy Banks is not a man...
she is a black woman according to the picture with the article at the times, which makes her statement, "I'm not going to smoke it. The feds don't recognize California's medical marijuana law. The DEA has been raiding dispensaries here; I don't want federal agents knocking on my door."even that more shameful. The Feds used to say that both blacks, and women couldn't vote, a right that Ms. Banks now enjoys because of people that were courageous enough to disagree and challenge the Feds. Also, this statement seems to imply that the DEA will raid patients merely for using the medicine that they get from their collective, which DOESN'T happen.All the factual errors aside (she recieved a Recommendation, NOT a "Prescription"), this article is great at exposing that the paranoia associated with marijuana, doesn't come from the cannabis itself, but rather from the unConstitutional Prohibition placed on it.Also, her email link is at the bottom of the article. I'm sure her inbox is full by now, but one more wouldn't hurt.
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Comment #11 posted by The GCW on April 26, 2008 at 10:16:34 PT

The Judge's brain doesn't think far enough.
CN ON: Conviction Puts Pot Church Out Of Business handing down his ruling, the judge called the operation "a marijuana convenience store that operates for profit like a prohibition-era speakeasy, but disguised as a church." -0-Uh, Mr. Judge Sir, why don't We have prohibition-era speakeasy's anymore???????????
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Comment #10 posted by Sam Adams on April 26, 2008 at 08:32:50 PT

I'm writing at LTE saying that meds shouldn't be flushed down the toilet and also advising this guy to find a dispensary that has some sort of canna-oil, it should work great on something like finger arthritis, just rub it in like hand lotion. Who know, maybe he went back and got some once he was "off the clock" and his boss wasn't watching.In fact, he probably bought 2 eighths of an ounce and just took one to work to show the boss.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on April 26, 2008 at 07:53:54 PT

Almost 40 Years Later
The more things change the more they stay the same. Enjoy!Arlo Guthrie - Coming Into Los Angeles - Woodstock 1969
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Comment #8 posted by Storm Crow on April 26, 2008 at 07:13:17 PT

The promise of relief will eat at him. Wait until fall comes again and makes his fingers so stiff he can't open a door knob. I bet he will head on down to the dispensary and this time (without his editor watching) he WON'T flush!Gosh, it must be nice to be in an income bracket where you can afford to flush $55 away without a second thought! That's about what I make in a day!(Love my job, but the pay really sucks!) 
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Comment #7 posted by dongenero on April 26, 2008 at 07:02:36 PT

Perhaps if he had tried the medication he would have been able to open the bottle next time.
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Comment #6 posted by Sam Adams on April 26, 2008 at 06:40:36 PT

One more thought
It really bothers me that the flushed the herb down the toilet. Remember the news that just came out about prescription meds contaminating nearly all the drinking water in the US? It's because of this practice of flushing meds down the to-to. (not cannabis of course, which cannot contaminate anything because it's not toxic)Nice of the LA Times to encourage people to dump their meds into the toilet! Great job guys, you're really using your awesome mantle of responsibility well.
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Comment #5 posted by Sam Adams on April 26, 2008 at 06:27:37 PT

Is he proud of this?
What's the point? Why did he waste the medicine, he should have handed it to the guy in the wheelchair. The sophomoric tone of this is insulting.  Why didn't they mention that Celebrex comes with a warning that it could give you a heart attack or deadly, dis-figuring skin disease, while cannabis can never kill you.Also, why is he "dumbstruck" by a little herb behind the counter?  Open your mind for crying out loud, are you that much of a consumer slave that a little actual freedom leaves you "dumbstruck"? This guy should visit a local farmstand, he'll be SHOCKED at all the fresh produce - right there behind the counter! Grown at a farm! Oh my God!The editors are like a bunch of 14 year olds at this paper. What a fool, if his fingers are really stiff why did he take the deadly Celebrex and throw the cannabis away? This shows why cannabis gets such a bad rap in the media, the people are total idiots 
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Comment #4 posted by OverwhelmSam on April 26, 2008 at 06:26:18 PT

Okay, I'll Admit It
The purple hydro is awesome. If it can blast a burn out like me away, it's pretty sweet. Guess I'll have to stock up, stuff like this rarely comes on the market in this area. Alcohol and Grass, pour another shot in my glass. lol
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Comment #3 posted by OverwhelmSam on April 26, 2008 at 06:19:08 PT

Bill Richardson Come To Mind
The govenor of New Mexico, Bill Richards is one of the good govenors. Not only has he supported medical marijuana bills, he warded off threats from the federal government and actually revived a dead bill to get it passed and signed. Simply amazing! We need more like him at the helm of our state governments. Governors like Minnesota's Pawlentry should be tagged for de-election for threatening to veto a bill from the people. The nerve!
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Comment #2 posted by OverwhelmSam on April 26, 2008 at 06:12:45 PT

Epiphanies, I Love Them
So, I was doing the wake'n bake thing with some new purple 'dro on the black market and it occurred to me, there seems to be a lot of governors who are quick to veto marijuana bills after they've passed the full house and senate for their respective state. We ask our congress persons and even the presidential candidates their policies on marijuana. I think a better initiative would be to detect and support candidates for state governor who support marijuana decriminalization and or legalization. That way, when everyone has done all the hard work to get bills through the state legislatures, a simple call from the DEA to the goveror is not going to get the bill vetoed.
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Comment #1 posted by Donald B Parsons on April 26, 2008 at 05:39:35 PT:

medical marijuana
I've been smoking for near 30 years and I can honestly say I can relate to the feelings of 70 years of prohibition fears. I would have had 90% of the same feelings only until I got home and self-medicated.
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