Should marijuana be legal? That's the question a lot of states are asking these days. This fall, seven more states will go to the ballot box to decide if they should join the other 17 states (and D.C.!) that have already legalized marijuana for medicinal use. If my math is correct, that means that weed could be legal in just under half the country by the end of the year, provided you have a debilitating condition like "general pain" or "mild depression" or "unspecified symptom syndrome."
Sure, Obama has been kicking down dispensary doors left and right lately, but rest assured, as long as marijuana is legal on the state level, someone will find a way to sell it to you, even if they don't have a store you can walk to. And it's probably just posturing to make Obama look tough on crime in the run up to his final election anyway.
Now, I would certainly never smoke marijuana myself. I know how it goes. That stuff is trouble. One minute you're enjoying a quiet smoke at home, next minute you're beating a dude to death with a cane while your girlfriend watches and cackles like a maniac.
That's not my scene at all, man. I don't even own a cane, you know? But all of the talk about medical marijuana in the news of late did pique my curiosity.
As mentioned previously, I recently moved to California, where marijuana has been legal for medicinal use since exactly one week prior to the release of Snoop Dogg's second album back in 1996. Those two things probably aren't related, but they seem like they should be.
For some reason.
Anyway, in the name of investigative journalism and nothing more (definitely not how much I like to party), I decided to look into the medical marijuana debate firsthand. Is a prescription for marijuana really that easy to get? Am I "sick" enough to get one? Can I write off an eighth of Blackberry Kush as a business expense?
All (meaning some) of those questions are about to be answered. Here's what happened when I tried to get a weed card in California.
Giving California the benefit of the doubt, I assumed I would at least need some sort of identification indicating that I was a resident of the state prior to being granted a license to chill. With that aim in mind, I set sail for the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a California driver's license and make my West Coast residency official.
You can schedule appointments at the DMV in California, and you have to be clinically retarded if you're visiting that place without setting something up ahead of time. Hell, even an appointment isn't enough to make the experience completely stress-free. My appointment was at 2:50 p.m. I arrived at 2:45 and was told I'd be called when I could stand in line with the other 15 people who had appointments at 2:50.
As I waited, a fellow, um, motorist, I guess, asked the security guard if he was Hawaiian. He replied that he was, in fact, Filipino. I was sure this avoidable cultural insult was going to result in an additional 60-minute wait for all of us. Much to my relief, I was proven wrong when I was finally allowed to stand in line for my 2:50 p.m. appointment at approximately 3:00 p.m. That happened just as a man seated next to me who looked like Nick Nolte's mug shot was frothing at the mouth about having already waited two hours. I felt bad for him, in a really satisfying, "glad that's not me" kind of way.
Which is exactly how I felt when I saw Nick Nolte's actual mug shot.
That a written test was going to be involved in order to obtain a California driver's license is one of those facts that I knew but just kind of ignored in the hopes that it would be a non-issue. I mean, I've been driving for like 20 years, what do they need to know? I got the answers. Studying is for teens.
That cockiness came crashing down about 10 questions in with a twisted math jumble about at which height and age combination a child could legally ride in a vehicle without a car seat. All I could really think about was whether my rage would have been at all containable if I had been forced to sit in a car seat at any of the ages listed. I'm not sure all of the cars my parents owned when I was a child even had seat belts.
Shockingly, though, I passed the written test on my first attempt. And with that, the first piece of the weed card puzzle was in place. In all, I was at the DMV for just over an hour. Pretty damn fast, as far as the DMV goes. But I was about to find out that it was completely unnecessary.
With my temporary California driver's license in hand, I decided to walk home from the DMV. It was a bit of a hike, but the weather was nice, and the cab ride had assured me that the trip was mostly downhill, so the risk of cardiac arrest was minimal. When I finally arrived home, the time was 4:35 p.m.
I assumed I'd have to wait until the next day before a doctor could see me. Doctors rarely work past five, it's one of the benefits of the job. I figured I'd get a little online research done so I was ready to attack the problem head on in the morning. But my sense of adventure kicked in when I found a doctor who was open until five, accepted walk-ins and was a mere nine-minute cab ride from my apartment. Excitedly, I navigated to the clinic's list of patient requirements.
As expected, I was informed that I would need a California driver's license or identification card. Cool, because I just spent an hour getting one, glad I didn't waste my time. Next, I was informed that if I didn't have a California ID, I could just bring anything that proves I live there, like a lease agreement. Fuck, I wasted my time.
It was also suggested that I bring something proving that I have some sort of medical disorder that marijuana is capable of treating. Like any other writer, I have a prescription for antidepressants. This marked the first time in recorded history that they've ever been of any benefit to me. I grabbed a pill bottle and headed out to hail a cab. It was 4:45.
After seven minutes of listening to a homeless man alternately ask me for change and assure me that I'd never catch a cab at this hour in San Francisco, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to make it to the drug doctor in time. Eventually, the homeless man asked me where I was going and, dejected at what appeared to be my impending failure to hail a cab, I explained that I was on my way to get a prescription for medical marijuana. He informed me that it was best to just buy it on the street. I replied that I had no doubt that this was true, but, as a professional, I had to play by the book. He indicated that he understood by farmer-blowing a gigantic nose oyster onto the pavement and then went on to explain that he got his weed card at a clinic "about a mile from here." I took the fact that he was able to remember the name of the place through the thick fog of an obvious malt liquor binge as a sign that things could possibly be breaking my way. I looked it up on Yelp and found that I could schedule an appointment online for 5:15 p.m. Google Maps assured me that it would be only an 18-minute walk. By my math, I figured that would put me at the doctor with about three minutes to spare. I was officially living inside of a smartphone commercial that co-starred a scene-stealing hobo. The adventure was back on!
I thanked the homeless gentleman for his useful intervention. He assured me it was his pleasure and reminded me that my decision to walk would save me a few bucks in cab fare. I knew what he was getting at. I hadn't eaten in a while and I was feeling a little weak. I assume he could see on my face a yearning to be filled with the rejuvenating power of food, the likes of which he had probably never seen or known. I mean, I hadn't eaten since like noon. I was famished. It was pretty righteous of him to remind me that I now had a little extra scratch to blow on a sandwich or something. I made a mental note to wreck shop on a meatball sub after my appointment and left the benevolent homeless man to continue his work as some kind of drunken Siri of the streets.
I arrived at the pot doctor at 5:13 p.m. It was just your typical doctor's office, provided you ignore the fact that the place is littered with weed pamphlets and that there's no medical equipment anywhere.
My appointment consisted of the office assistant asking me 10 somewhat medical-sounding questions, followed by the doctor confirming that his assistant had asked me these questions. Have you used cannabis in the past without problems? Do you have any unwanted side effects from your current medications? They're the kind of questions that would require nothing short of self sabotage to not answer correctly. In all, the appointment took about 15 minutes. The cost? Approximately eight dollars per minute. For that, I got a card signifying my membership in the marijuana fan club and a new weapon in my lifelong battle against mild-to-moderate depression.
So, holy shit, that was easy. It was 5:32 p.m. Time to buy some drugs.