So I just got back from California.  Holy fucking whoa.  What the state of California has accomplished, with little real understanding by those who haven’t seen the plan in action, is a slightly more regulated than the Dutch version of decriminalization.

But make no mistake about it- California’s medical marijuana laws are certainly providing a useful and effective medicine to people who genuinely benefit from its use.  That said, what has happened in reality is way more than the widespread availability of a medicine which is otherwise viewed as a dangerous narcotic by the Federal government.

For the novelty of it, a friend & I went to a doctor in LA (no appointments taken, the guy on the phone told us), filled out a form in a 14×20 waiting room (“yo, they’s even got reggae an shit on the stereo” said one of the less-scrupulous young urbanite men in the room).  The doctor took his bloodpressure, asked him a few random health-related questions, he told her he’s in a lot of pain and stiffness from several different car crashes he’s been involved in over the years (not entirely untrue) and walked out with a notarized, official letter stating that in her medical opinion he would benefit from smoking/using marijuana.  He paid her $120; cash only they said.

There are literally hundreds of these doctors in California.

 We then drove to another part of LA to an entirely non-descript building, rang the buzzer on the door, walked in, my friend presented his driver’s license and the letter, filled out another form (stating that in no way was he a law-enforcement officer, and in no other way associated with such people), and then proceeded to the room behind the huge metal door.  I wasn’t allowed to follow, being without my own letter (they’re available to residents only).

But what was described to me by my friend (and what I could somewhat see through the closed circuit TV in the receptionist’s bullet-proof glass encased quarters):  Pounds and pounds of the most incredible pot imaginable.  Smoking paraphernalia (he got a free pipe as a first-time buyer), plants to grow (you can have as many as 6, I think), hash, pot brownies, pot chewing gum… you get the picture.  You’re purchase is put in regular prescription-pill containers, into a white paper bag not unlike what you get from a pharmacist, and off you go.

And though my friend had a quasi-legit (maybe entirely legit, I’m no doctor) reason to at least try it as a medicine, I assure you this seemed more the exception than the rule.  What do I know?  all the people at the doctor’s office and at the “buyer’s club” could have very sincere medical reasons for smoking pot- but it sure felt more like the street corner I used to buy at when in high school in Connecticut than anything else.  The Feds (DEA) have made a habit of occasional raids of the distribution places, but the doctors and “patients” seem to be largely left alone by law enforcement.  The doctor did recommend that he travel with only limited amounts in a vehicle (“2 grams or so”), but the actual limit fro possession is something like a few ounces. 

Lets be serious folks: when people smoke pot, the only “victim” is the smoker.  It’s as easy as that.  As my friend Banjo Bob said to me the other day: “I don’t know- people who run out of crack tend to rob for money; people who run out of pot tend to clean their house really well looking for their lost stash.”  People who decry the health and societal downfalls of “substance abuse” should consider that rather than criminalization of a health problem, perhaps we could address just exactly what it is that would drive someone to be so despondent over the state of reality that they chose to occasionally numb their consciousness to avoid it.

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