LA loves the stoner dollar

I lied to a doctor so I could buy weed (and so does everyone else)

The nurse calls my name and I get up from my seat in the waiting room. I’m thankful to leave Billy Crystal’s ‘It’s My Life’ playing on the TV and the smell of stale pot in the sofa. I walk into a smaller attic sized room stuffed with papers and open boxes and I take a seat opposite a scruffy looking forty-something man. The doctor’s office smells no better than the waiting room. I’m here to have my request for medical marijuana papers evaluated by a doctor. Proposition 215 makes marijuana cultivation and possession legal in the state of California. Medical marijuana patients are allowed to carry up to half a pound of weed at any time in public and can grow up to approximately 100 plants at home (the actual number of plants you can have is still being decided by the courts).

I lie to the doctor and tell him that I am a bricklayer by trade. This is the most memorable lie I’ve told in a while, especially to a doctor. It makes me feel like a junky.

“I’m a bit sore.” I continue. This is not a lie. I cleared customs at Los Angeles International less than an hour ago and my irritation is real. My friend must have set a new record for getting us across town. It didn’t take us long to find Venice Beach, (a hippy version of the Gold Coast, only with more fitness equipment, fewer drunks, Warrick Capper is half a world away and the weed doesn’t suck) and one of the small beachside practices where we could see a ‘doctor’. An employee of the doctor’s practice, dressed from head to toe in bright green and waiving a giant sign with a weed leaf told us where to go.

The doctor scribbles down the occasional note as I speak. “And how does Cannabis help?” He replies.

“I hurt my back. I was working hard to get here for Coachella, and I’m in a bit of pain… Weed helps me sleep.”

He asks me a few more simple questions: How often do I smoke? Does weed help with anxiety? Does it help my appetite? The whole process lasts about one to two minutes. Apparently this is how long it takes to assess whether a patient has a legitimate need for medicinal marijuana. My need is genuine, but it’s not legitimate. I know this, the doctor knows this, but I tell him what he needs to hear.

I’m out the door and I’m back in the waiting room, the one with the manky couch and dated-standup on the telly. Another minute passes and this time I’m called to see the office secretary. I’m required to pay another $100 on top of the $40 doctor’s consultation fee before I get my papers. The $100 fee is not advertised. If you want to pull out at this stage, there’s a $20 cancellation fee. You have the option of registering for one month, three months, six months or a year. The secretary was nice enough to give me a six-month registration for the price of a three; however, my United States visa will expire before my medical marijuana papers do. Most tourists can only stay in the United States for a couple of months at most. It’s no coincidence that the medical marijuana papers match the length of a United States tourist visa. The papers are almost comical in appearance. They remind me of the type of certificate a parent gives their young child to hang on the wall in mock display of achievement. My parents brought me something official looking to hang on my bedroom wall as a kid. Sadly, my parents paid for this one, too. There’s a Caduceus medical symbol with a weed leaf behind it in the top corner and some official looking gold stamp from an indiscernible institution on the bottom.

Comical or not, if you want to smoke, you need these papers. While any General Practitioner or everyday doctor could do the evaluation, a GP can’t provide the document with the silly gold stamp. This is what the weed dispensaries want to see. Even the locals come to the place with the guy dressed in a head to toe in green asking people if they want to get high.I pay the $140 and take the envelope with my papers and first time buyer coupons at some of the nearby cannabis dispensaries. Offers like ‘free joint with first purchase’ and ‘complimentary edibles’ give an insight into the business of weed in California. As marijuana embeds itself in the mainstream, more and more businesses are competing for the stoner dollar.

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