When I was in high school, I crashed doing an airwalk grab on the library steps. I have it on video. I smashed two vertebrae in my lower back. The surgery left me with metal in my back and an attitude. That was like eleven years ago. I have pain that can be crippling for a few days, sometimes it's not so bad. I have taken a lot pain killers including Oxycontin and Vicodin over the years. I like that stuff but it makes me drool and recite the alphabet non-stop. Mostly, I get by with an epidural injection every few months and daily doses of ibuprofen or naproxen. I smoke marijuana too.
I find that marijuana doesn't block the pain much but it sure helps with my attitude. I've been depressed since the accident. I guess, I just can't accept that I''ll never be a world class skater and I'll always walk a little bit like my grandpa. I was prescribed Zoloft at first, then Wellbutrin for depression but marijuana works much better for me. Dude, I'm only 28. I want to have fun, have some laughs. Anyway, I'm sitting around smoking and joking with some friends, and this guy Doug says, "Dude, you can smoke legally. Messed up as you are, no offense, you can qualify for medical marijuana. Medical marijuana? I visualize the herb in little capsules. So Doug knows this guy who knows a guy, call him Bob, who is totally down with the whole medical marijuana scene.
Bob and I drive up to Santa Monica so I can get on the program. The medical marijuana dispensary is between a nail salon and a Tae Kwon-Do studio. Inside, it's like any other store, a glass display case with rows of big glass jars like your granny might keep cooking stuff in except these are filled with marijuana buds, with neat little tent cards propped up in front of them with product names like L.A. Confidential, Blueberry, Kush, and Trainwreck.
I reach into my jeans for my roll and Bob says, "You gotta get a referral letter first." So we walk past the cute salesgirl in a tight pink t-shirt. She was pretty hot. We go out the back to a patio with some plastic chairs and a picnic table. Dr. Dean will see you now. The doc is pretty cool, in his forties I'd say, talks to me for about 15 minutes, lots of questions about my medical history (I have a copy of my last MRI report with me) and my psychiatric history. I sense that he's happy to talk to someone who is really messed up physically versus some of these anxiety and ADD types. Dr. Dean decided that I was a suitable candidate for medical marijuana, took the $150 out of my hand, and gave me a signed letter certifying that I was a patient under his care. The letter was good for a year, after that I could renew it each year for $100. He said that he had written several thousand medical marijuana recommendations in the last few years and that none had been successfully challenged in court.
With that reassurance, I couldn't wait to get back to the front desk and the pink t-shirt. She said I should call her Sandy and she started out with a brief primer of the major marijuana strains: "indica is for a body high, more numbing", she said, "whereas sativa is more for the head, more abstract, better for doing creative work, listening to music." I spend the next 20 minutes, looking and smelling, and checking out Sandy. Finally, I sense that Sandy wants to move on and Bob is getting impatient so I finalize my purchase. Incidentally, you can't sample anything on the premises. On the way home Bob fills me in on the etiquette of being a bona fide medical marijuana patient. Words like "weed", "dope", and getting "stoned" are not to be used anymore. Those words helped to criminalize marijuana in the past. Now, I'm to refer to marijuana as medicine.
It's still not a perfect world. The Federal government doesn't recognize the legality of California's medical marijuana law. The DEA raids dispensaries regularly. I'm talking about SWAT teams with guns drawn. They intimidate but make no attempt to identify the patients. They confiscate marijuana and the dispensary's computers, and cash. It's mostly harassment. They want the dispensaries to go away but they return the confiscated items after a while. The authorities also pressure the landlords to evict the dispensaries.
What's changed most for me since I've become a medical marijuana patient? I definitely get a much better grade of marijuana now. It costs a more, but I don't use as much. By law, I'm allowed to have as much as half a pound for personal use, but I find I keep a much smaller amount because I have a reliable and legal source. Some of the people I bought marijuana from back in the day were not people I would have chosen to hang out with otherwise, no offense intended.