I don't have AIDS, cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, hemophilia, back pain, or any other condition that truly qualifies me for medical marijuana in the state of California...yet. But I love pot and must have stooped so low according to the Right that I was willing to lie to obtain a card. In my defense, I was new to Los Angeles so I didn't know of any dealers. A few weeks without inspiration for this frivolous creative writing I engage in was a few too many.
Before I begin, let it be known that I'm an awful liar. Every time I lie about something my nostrils flair and I reveal a smirk like a little kid. So I tried practicing my 'pitch' on my brother -- he was working on his acting craft at the time – and I could not contain my laughter. While wringing my hands I practiced speaking a mile a minute. "I have intense anxiety and I get so nervous and oh my God I'm so nervous right now I can't even talk to you." Then, I smirked.
This probably won't go well but hey, worth a shot.
So it was a sun-drenched day in August when I drove up to the local clinic via the filth that is Sunset Boulevard. The perimeter of the room was lined with chairs filled by Bundys of all shapes and sizes. It didn't seem like many of them had AIDS or cancer either. Everyone was just kind of normal. There were even a group of kids that looked like they were seniors in high school cutting class because it was one of their 18th birthdays.
I approach the front desk where a tattooed hipster greets me with a clipboard. "Just fill this out and we'll see if you qualify," she said.
So I popped a squat next to a black guy with baggy pants and Adidas tennis sneakers. I was confronted with a wide range of questions related to my "condition" where I checked some boxes that indicated my ailments. No diagnosis by a medical assistant. No tests to see whether or not I had these things. Just boxes. Going into the ordeal, I committed to anxiety and a difficulty sleeping. Two checks. After signing off that I wasn't lying I walked back up to the desk and handed in my clipboard. Upon sitting back down for a few moments, I'm called back up.
"Mr. Tyler, you only checked two of these boxes but in order for you to qualify you must check a third. Are there any other conditions on here that you have by chance?"
Perfect. It was almost like she was encouraging me to lie further on my initial self-assessment. You must check a third.
"Yea, you know, I'm also a bit depressed. The lack of sleep really dampens my mood," I retorted in monotone.
"Great, thanks. Just take a seat and we'll call you up in a few moments."
Nothing like a second chance when the doctor stands to benefit from my forty-dollar fee.
I waited. And waited. And then I bought a slice of pizza downstairs and waited some more. As I continued looking around I wondered how many other people would be going in with the same stories of anxiety and depression and how unconvincing that would be if I said the exact same thing. Paranoia. And I hadn’t even smoked that day. Truthfully, the length of time at which I spent waiting really did dampen my mood and helped me get into character. Finally, after about forty-five minutes my name was called.
"Mr. Tyler, the Doctor is ready to see you."
Oh boy. The Doctor. This was my moment to shine. I braced myself for a tight-assed dude with a lab coat, giving me his best Larry David scrutiny to determine whether or not I was telling the truth. But My Doctor was actually a gray haired hippie-looking type in a Tommy Bahama button-down. My first inclination was to start talking about the Grateful Dead but I had to see the plan through. And so I looked down at the ground and awkwardly dug my retro Jordans into the carpet while offering a handshake trashy kids from my high school would deem “bitch ass.”
As he had a line of patients out the door, My Doctor got down to business in no time.
"So why do you think you have such a difficult time sleeping?"
And so I dove straight into the deep end, mustering up an old anecdote a roommate from college told me about his ‘boy’s boy.’
"Two years ago I was playing tennis with my friend when he collapsed and died on the court. Every time I sleep now I'm afraid of not waking up."
I managed it without a smirk. Absolute misery was painted on my face. In my mind I thought, "Please buy it. Please buy it. Please buy it," a la Smalls from The Sandlot.
"Well that sounds a bit more like post-traumatic stress disorder. I think therapy is a bit more optimal than medicinal marijuana. Have you tried marijuana before?"
Damnit he's not biting.
"Yes I tried it once in New York and it was the only thing that really helped me sleep." Another lie.
"You know, I can see it in your eyes that you're not happy. This definitely had an impact on you. Here's what we're gonna do..."
Yes. Yes. Yes.
"I'm going to write you a prescription for just one year just so you can get some sleep and put yourself back together. But I want you to look into therapy. And I want you to do activities with friends. Do you have friends out here?"
"Yes and I'm living with my brother, too."
"Go to the beach. Not ALONE. Meet people. You have to reintegrate if you're ever going to get past this, OK?"
Shortly thereafter I was signed, stamped, and issued a certificate that allowed me to legally purchase marijuana ounces at a time. I also purchased a card for an additional $20 because it was implied I needed it and I was under the guise that an underwhelming sheet of paper wasn’t enough. But I later found out that this is a tremendous moneymaker for the doctors because the laminated cards are actually useless and cost nothing to print. If you show a printed card to a dispensary or a police office they’ll just laugh in your face since they’re forgeable and they only look at the sheet of paper you need to carry on your person at all times.
Nonetheless, my first trip to a dispensary began. I drove my car across six lanes of smoggy Sunset Boulevard traffic as if medical marijuana was to be overturned any second. I pulled into the gas station located next to the dispensary and soon entered the second-best holy grail of pot (first being in Amsterdam). After I was buzzed through the security-heavy doors, I signed-in and was handed a loyalty card with my first punch. A five gram eighth.
Holy sh*T. Like I’ve been to plenty of coffee shops in my day that do the whole loyalty thing but usually it takes 12 punches just to get a free cup of Joe. But competition is fierce in this marketplace and they want your business. And it doesn’t just stop at the first punch with a five gram eighth. After that it’s two free joints here, an edible there, all the way down to free glass on the eighth go. Say good-bye to the days of the cheapened weigh-out! Take that, New York dealers!
While lounging in the comfortable lobby with marijuana magazines at my disposal I was overwhelmed by the sweet and potent sensation emanating from the room next door. When I finally entered the holding area, the aroma from the fresh nuggets filled my nostrils like flowery powder. That was when I was greeted by the cutest girl behind the counter that made me appreciate Mike Posner’s lyrics to Drug Dealer Girl at a whole other level. She offered recommendations, explained the difference between the indica and sativa strains, all with a polite and friendly demeanor. I almost fell in love with her during the thicket of our friendly banter but in the back of my mind I knew there were too many LA creeps offering to “smoke her up,” ruining that game for the rest of us decent folk.
I picked out an upper called Blue Dream and she carefully plucked out wholesome herbs with chopsticks like it was fine Katsuya sushi. Just as she was weighing it out, my black friend from the clinic entered.
"Oooo weeeee! Oooo weeeee! I'm finna get some of that dank herb kna what I'm sayin'?" he exclaimed. Upon noticing one another we gave each other the nod, almost in mutual respect of our misgiving for he too must have been a pretender. The overwhelming majority of people that have cards must be, right?
I returned to the apartment victorious. My brother loved it. We smoked a fat joint and as much I’d like to say it was the best joint I ever smoked, it wasn’t all that different than any other time I’ve smoked weed with my brother. Hypothesizing, hitting a local bar and awkwardly holding court with disinterested women, and ultimately conking out on the couch were all components of this round’s repertoire.
Tough to believe something so easily accomplished today, smoking marijuana, made the likes of Ken Kesey and many others flee the country back in the day. Things done changed.
Several months later I was sh*T canned from my job and my health insurance was dropped. I lived in deep fear that these lies would come back to haunt me with premiums that were going to be out the wazoo. Like my name was assigned to some list that insurance companies would always check, screwing me over in perpetuity. But that wasn’t the case. I reported to them my normalcy and they never questioned it. I even switched health insurance further into the future and it never came up. Nice.