Let me just say, that the last time I bought weed, there was no internet. That’s right kiddies, pull up a chair and let ol’ Grampa Imaguy spin you a yarn about the days when the only way to get your smoke on was to; A.) Buy it on your street corner (and lord knows what may be sprinkled amongst its tantalizing little fuzzy red hairs), B.) Buy it from the guy down the hall in your non-air-conditioned, cinder-blocked dorm where every window panel on the west side of the building had a Jim Morrison poster hanging in them to block out all sunlight as you broke on through to the other side, or C.) Grew your own shit… which, also occurred in the aforementioned dorm with the help of a self contained terrarium and mini-UV lamp you bought in the back of “High Times” magazine. Which, incidentally, came in the mail the same day as those sea monkeys you ordered from the back of that dog-eared issue of She-Hulk – that incidentally came in handy when you’re suite mate was borrowing your copy of Oui Magazine with an eighteen-year-old Demi Moore on the cover. But I digress. Back to the sea monkeys… is it true they weren’t this Little-Mermaid-esque community of monkey-like happy sea dwelling characters – and were nothing more than… wait for it… shrimp?? Shrimp. And not even the good kind you get on a salad at Cheesecake Factory – you know, when you go there for a special occasion like a birthday or bar mitzvah and you were allowed to get something from “that” section of the menu. Anyway, back to the shrimp, they weren’t like the ones extracted from the deepest warm waters off the gulf of Mexico that could give even a strapping lobster from the north-east a complex – but the kind you find when you peel back the lid on one of those expired Dollar Store Chicken-Of-The-Sea tin cans. But I digress, again.
By the way, fun fact, in the year 2000, shrimp overtook tuna as the most popular seafood in the U.S. Another fun fact, Americans consume, on average, four pounds of shrimp each year. I’ll come back to that in a second. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/dining/going-wild-for-american-shrimp.html?_r=0
What does that have to do with getting weed? Well, I’ll tell you… there’s a great little take-away seafood place not even three short blocks from where I live, where one can walk up and buy as much of those little popcorn buggers as they like, seasoned just the way you please, sold by the ounce, mind you – and once purchased, you can be on your merry way. And guess what’s right next to said take-away seafood joint? An establishment where one can have pretty much the same experience, with as much ease, if not more, to buy, well, a marijuana joint. Seafood joint. Marijuana joint. Seafood joint. Marijuana joint. Joint, joint. Joint, joint. See how I did that?? That’s right, weed has gone retail! No more beeper calls (aye, there I go dating myself again) to the guy down the hall who blasts his Jesus Jones CD too loud (again with the dating self!) to score that late-night, pre double-stuff pizza, dime-bag. You see, Imaguy is no longer living in the Midwest where, while as wholesome, solid and salt-of-the-earth as it may be – its quite oppressive, repressive, some would say depressive and even regressive. He now lives in the golden state of Cali-forn-i-a! The Sunkist State! The Left Coast! La La Land! The Land o’ Milk and Honey! El Dorado! And as Tupac and Dr. Dre say, (cue modulated robotic voice) “California Looooooove…” And guess what? Pot. Be. Legal. Here. It’s true. Well, pretty much true. See, marijuana, in one iteration or another, has been “legal” in California for over 20 years. http://www.thecannabist.co/2015/10/12/california-marijuana-regulations/42167/
But just recently, our very own Governor Edwin Jerald “Jerry” Brown, signed a series of bills that create a licensing and oversight framework for the growing and selling of medical marijuana and pot-infused products. What’s that mean? It’s easier than ever to get. Oh, fun fact – by the way, don’t ya just love my fun facts?? – Ol’ “Give’em-Hell Jerry” personally selected California’s first Medical Marijuana Chief… Medical Marijuana Chief! A chief of marijuana! That’s right, our grand State got us one a those, too! And in the immortal words of Bill Murray’s iconic John Winger in the cinematic classic “Stripes”; “You, Chief Medical Guy Of All Things Marijuana… You are a madman! I wanna party with you, cowboy!!” (Or something kinda like that). Anyway, what does all this legal jargon, bill passing, mumbo jumbo, and pontificating mean? Regulation. And what does regulation mean? Well, fortunately, Imaguy is also a walking dictionary. Well, not really. But his hairy, ape-like fingers can Google word definitions faster than you can say, “light that sh*t up!” “Regulation”, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is; “An official rule or law that says how something should be done…” Which really means, the ball is a-rollin’ and as Jefferson Starship said – and probably after smoking a lot of joints, in California, mind you, said; “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”!! We are free to blaze up to our little hearts delight! Sure, there are a few hoops to jump through, some well played adjustments, a few “Up the airy mountain. Down the rushy glen, We daren’t go a-hunting For fear of little men” technicalities… (Willy Wonka, people. You gotta keep up!) But at the end of the day, if you can communicate even the ever-so-slightest medicinal need for a little “Turner & Hooch” time… you’re as good as green.
So, now, let me take you on a journey in to how it’s done. The best and easiest way to score your very own stash – and legally. This here break in our regularly scheduled program is what we call, “investigative journalism”. See, “VICE” ain’t got nothin’ on us! And we didn’t even have to go to the Badlands of Afghanistan or some house of horrors chicken farm in rural Louisiana to make our point to you… literally, we could just rock on down to the marijuana dispensary on Melrose, across from the late-night Kabob place and catty-corner to an auto repair shop that I swear has had the same vehicle sitting in its only garage for the entire six years I’ve lived in this hood – I mean seriously, how does that stay open????
So here were the rules to my investigation; Can’t ask anyone how it works to go through this process. And yes, I have some friends who are self-professed experts in this arena – but I wanted to go in to the experience, virginal. Two, I can’t divulge my real reason for being in their establishment. I was “undercover” after all. And three, I must walk away from this participation with some hootenanny at all costs… and if that means lying or cheating or role-playing – so be it! No matter what, I was gonna score!
So, I literally peeled my smartphone from one of the folds in my paunch, used my stubby hoof to engage my Uber app (back to that in a second) and summoned my golden chariot – in the form of a exceptionally clean 2015 Toyota Corolla with the calming smell of “Island Fresh” from a Febreze Car Vent Clip filling the cabin – which, by the way, instantly imported me to the white sandy beaches of Jamaica-mon, which I found both ironic and befitting… and I was officially on my way.
Now, back to the decision to Uber-it. Why, Imaguy, did you not simply slide your rotund, yet surprisingly taught, derrière in to your own ’77 El Camino and chauffeur yourself down the green brick road to the emerald city? Well, the way the grainy synapses sometimes bump and grind in this ol’ goats noodle, I can get a bit paranoid and felt if I got randomly pulled over after said purchase by the fuzz, even though what I was doing was legal and even though I would never partake in driving under the influence, I would easily crumble the second the officer said, “license and registration”. The exchange would go something like;
Officer: Driving a bit slow today, aren’t we?
Imaguy: Oh, just not in any rush, I guess.
Officer: You know, sometimes over-caution, to an officer of the law, is an indication of guilt.
BEAT, then –
Imaguy: I have a eight ounces of Purple Dragon weed, some beautifully hand blown glass pipes and enough baked goods and sundries to open my own Dunkin’ Donuts/Head Shop sitting in that Ralph’s in the passenger seat next to me…
Cue your ol’ pal Imaguy being carted off to jail.
Again, that’s not the way it works because if all goes according to plan, my “holdings” – as long as I am not partaking in them while driving a vehicle – should be right as rain. But again, paranoia always trumps reason. So Uber it is! Oh, and by the way, driving under the influence is a big fat no-no in Uncle Imaguy’s book and if you even think of doing that, you’ll make Uncle Imaguy angry. And you won’t like Uncle Imaguy when he’s angry. Trust me.
Moving on… I had my driver take me directly to the world famous, Melrose Avenue and specifically, the Melrose District, in the heart of Los Angeles. According to Wikipedia, the Melrose District; “runs from Fairfax to Highland Avenue, and became a popular underground and new wave shopping area in the early 1980s. Pioneered by adventurous independent retailers and restaurateurs, Melrose captured the global imagination as the birthplace of Southern California’s New Wave and Punk cultures…” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melrose_Avenue
Oh, and by the way, while estimates vary, there are roughly 500-1000 dispensaries in Los Angeles proper, with a major concentration on Melrose alone. And plenty within a stones-throw from that favorite kabob place I mentioned earlier.
And while we are on the subject of marijuana’s legal proliferation and geographical imprint, I’d like to also point out its impact on the local economy. According to https://ballotpedia.org/Marijuana_dispensaries_in_California and the State Board of California, marijuana clubs/dispensaries bring in an estimated $870 million to $2 billion in revenue annually. That’s billion with a “b”. And again, that’s with intense regulation. Imagine what would happen when you could rock in to your local Whole Foods and find a nice selection of ganja right in between the lavender soap and organic calendula. But that is another story for another time.
Back to my mission… I didn’t even pre-source a venue. I literally had my Uber guy drive down Melrose as I kept my puffy lids peeled for one of those green cross medical signs which is like a wink-wink-nod-nod to anyone even somewhat in-the-know that there be cannabis in them there hills! I instantly spotted one and instructed my driver to pull over, much to his displeasure as I am sure he was enjoying my personal mood-setting humming of Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABc8ciT5QLs . I thanked him and I waddled my way to the front door of a “retail space” which, while the outside was painted black and the windows were blackened as well, the bright green lettering with the name; “Bubba Ho-teps Collective” (not the real name as I am attempting to protect the innocent – and FYI, Imaguy always does this by referencing some form of Bruce Cambell fair. Why? Because I can and this is my article) – and I prepared to enter.
Would I have to ring a doorbell, which would lead me in to another waiting area where I would be frisked and then brought in to another area? Would a kooky character like the Guardian of The Emerald Gates from Wizard of Oz pop his face through a sliding door-view, look me over and ask for the password? Would I have to submit to a DNA test to show I truly had been to that Grateful Dead Concert my high school friends dragged me to at Chicago’s Soldier Field to show I was worthy enough to be shown the wonders that lie within??
Nope. I just pushed the door open with my paws, a little bell above the door jingled and I walked inside. And to be honest, there wasn’t much to it. It was nice and clean. And kind of had the attempts at a “vibe”. There was fake grass on the floor (very nice touch!) and a vintage Ms. Pacman machine in the corner (very very nice touch!) and a woman sitting at a desk with another door behind her (I would later find out that was the heart of the operation where they kept the stash!).
She warmly greeted me and asked how she could help. I must admit to you, my fine feathered readers, I felt like I was not only about to do something “wrong” but that I was going to get busted for it at any second. I mean, it’s kind of like walking in to a porn shop – not that I’ve ever ever never ever done that before! – and purchasing items at the counter. I mean, the counter clerk knows what you’re about to use said purchases for, and you most certainly do, but there is just this unspoken rule of etiquette that you don’t look each other in the eye and no one can smile, because, of course, that would be an acknowledgement of guilt and understanding. Two things I personally avoid like the plague. And here I was, standing in front of this helpful young lady – and wouldn’t you know it – I had the biggest perma-grin spreading these bull-dog-like jowls of mine apart as one could imagine! And I hadn’t even bought or smoked anything yet! I had green guilt written all over my face! Not to mention, I had this impulse building from the deepest bowels of my core, which wanted to burp itself in to the world in the form of an uncontrollable series of “tee-hees”. You know the “tee-hees” I’m referring to. The ones that subtextually were expressing the thought, “I’m about to buy some pot and nobody can stop me!” Anyway, she definitely looked at me as if I was a lunatic. But with no choice and a journalistic duty to fulfill, I pressed on.
“Hi…” I said. “Yes, I’d like to purchase some marijuana. Thank you…” (Suppress the “tee-hees”, suppress the “tee-hees”…)
“Okay…” she said. “Drivers license and med-rec card, please”.
“Uh, excuse me??”, I said. (Still trying to suppress the tee-hees)… “What’s a med-rec card??”
“Medical records card. You need one to get the “prescription” she said.
Ugh. Cue door slamming in proverbial face. Medical records?? What medical records? I need to provide those to get the ganja? That sucks!!! Mission collapse! Objective incomplete! Danger Will, Robinson! Failure, failure, failure!!!! You mean I have to go to my doctor!??! And he has to provide permission!??! I love my general practitioner and all but he wouldn’t even give me a second trial packet of Viagra as that would be “breaking the spirit and intention for sampling”. Which, by the way, is bull-pucky. I am proud to admit that one of life’s true joys is the free lunch one can compile by simply visiting their local Costco on a Saturday. All the frozen pizza bites and Nestle Quick tastings you could possibly want – and they never bat an eye when I come back for fourths or fifths. (Truth be told, sevenths or eights – but again, who’s counting. See, they are supportive).
“I don’t have my medical records or prescription??”
She could sense I was crestfallen.
“No problem!” she exclaimed as she reached over her desk and handed me a business card. “Go to this establishment and they can get you sorted for what you need. They are a “doctors office”, she smiled.
“Oh…” I said, taking the card. “Um, is it far…” I was expecting I would have to drive to some super-special-secretive doctors office in a back alley in Venice Beach where this revolutionist doctor had broken away from convention, gone off-grid and was dispensing prescriptions for medical marijuana to “stick it” to the man.
“No…” she said. “It’s two doors down.”
“Wow!” I exalted. “That’s great!” And off I tottered just a hop, skip and a ha-rumph down!
Following the address, I now found myself in front of another small retail space, exterior painted black, again with blacked out windows. This one with a name akin to “Doctor 420”. Oh, I forgot to mention, at the previous place, the counter girl gave me a coupon for my upcoming doc visit. A coupon! This was getting better by the second!
I walked in and low and behold – it looked like a doctors office! A real one! Waiting room and all. I went over to the receptionist station, with its funny doctor’s office sliding window, which slid back and revealed a guy who looked like a clean cut UCLA student – who asked if I was a returning or new patient. I told him “new”, he gave me some medical forms – I sat down, filled out the usual info – name, date, address, cell, email… and then had to answer some medical questions. Now, while I did no prep whatsoever on how to push this adventure through, I do recall hearing that they don’t just give anyone the ability to buy. You have to have a “reason” and a somewhat medical one at that. Problem was, while I am riddled with issues, I wasn’t sure which one would push the needle forward for Doc McPuffin who’d be examining me at any moment. What did I want to share? Which ailment would I choose? Oh, there are so many! Fatigue (I mean, I’m always tired, even after I sleep nineteen hours on a Sunday, and yes, don’t judge, I tend to do that. Most people aren’t aware but it says in the bible, “and on the seventh day, God hibernated with two boxes of Cheez-Its and his HBO Go cued up to “Game of Thrones”). Nah, that sounds lame. How about stress? I mean, I’m always stressed. I was even stressed before I left the house because I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoes with the ease I could in my twenties before my belly began to expand with the fuel of a thousand nights of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy and that delivery pizza with the cheese in the crust – IN THE CRUST, mind you! Nope, not stress. That’s too vague. Oh, I got it! Anxiety! That’s the ticket! I mean, it’s a real affliction, it’s just vague enough – I mean, you can’t prove someone has it, not with an Xray or anything – so surely that would get me the big green-light!!
So, I double circled and highlighted “anxiety” on my form – turned in my papers to Mister UCLA Student – and prepared to present myself as a fully anxious person in need of some serious medicinal assistance that only the “herb” could cure!
“Next!” I was called in. “Second door on the left”! Wait, you mean there are few doctors in this place? And at thirty five bucks a visit – reasonable, yes, but I forgot to mention, the “customers” or “patients” were rotating in and out of there faster than ol’ Imaguy would sign up at a butter convention! Wow, that’s a lot of business! Continuing, I then walked in to the office of the esteemed – and yes, she must have been esteemed as the diploma on the wall behind her head indicated as much – Dr. Nefertiti. And yes, that was her name. Not sure if it was her first or last as that is all that was stitched on to her doctor’s white coat. She was tall, African-American with a beautiful afro pulled in to a tight celery-stalk-like bun on top, wrapped at the base by a thick colorful band. And she was as articulate as a whip! With the ease, professionalism and bedside manner that would have put Dr. McSteamy or McDreamy or whomever to shame, she interviewed me, honed in on my “issues”, gave me a rundown of the medicinal benefits of marijuana for them – and just like that, I was approved. Bam! I was now about to be a card-carrying member of the reefer-smoking community! Only one thing… I lied. I did. And I hate to admit it because she was awesome and actually came across quite caring for people’s needs. Not something I expected. I mean, I just assumed everyone was there to be able to buy some weed and get stoned, right? Nope. People were actually suffering and my Nubian Princess, Nefertiti was trying to help them. According to http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000087, marijuana provides relief for the following;
Alzheimer’s Disease, Anorexia, AIDS, Arthritis, Cachexia, Cancer, Crohn’s Disease, Epilepsy, Glaucoma, HIV, Migraine, Multiple Sclerosis, Nausea, Pain, Spasticity, Wasting Syndrome. That’s a lot of categories! And some heavy-hitters, at that!
Now, back to my lie. I told Dr. Nef, I had anxiety. And to say I embellished was an understatement. Sure, I get stressed and “anxious” but do I suffer from it? Nah, but alas, to ensure accomplishment, I bended the truth and minutes later, I was leaving the office of “Doctor 420” for short electric-boogaloo back to the collective. And now I had an actual card. It looked like a driver’s license, with my picture and everything and big bold letters at top, which read, “Medical Marijuana Patient Verification Card”. I was officially verified.
And upon entry, I plopped that card on the receptionist’s desk, filled out a couple of additional forms and was directed to that nefarious looking back door. I then entered and found – pay dirt. There it was. Marijuana and many many other pot related sundry items as far as the eye could see. And who was behind the counter to greet me – Paco (again, name slightly changed to protect the innocent). To be honest, he looked like he had just been released from prison – and the only real reason I can say that is because I swear on a stack of flapjacks, he was still wearing his prison garb. His hair was pulled back in to a slick pony-tail, and I was expecting him to say something like; “This here is my yard and I run this yard and you will do whatever I say while you are in my yard… got it,??” But he didn’t. He simply and politely asked if he could help me. I said I wanted to buy some pot. He joked, “Well, you came to the right place, friend”. By the way, he kept calling me friend, kind of like I would imagine someone like Danny Trejo would if we were hanging out or working together. Like one of those little anecdotal participles tagged at the end of a statement, which made you feel equal parts at ease and as if this guy was in control and it was definitely his yard. Again, digression. He asked what I wanted out of my purchase, did I want an upper or downer. Zoinks! I started to think fast and then the perma-grin came back. Tee-hee. Well, I guess a downer. He then pulled out three giant mason-like jars filled with some of the gnarliest looking bud I’d ever seen; some with spider like red tentacles and hairs protruding from every nook and crevice of it, others as green as Oz itself. And the names; Girl Scout Cookies, Purple Urkel, Skywalker OG, Trainwreck and my favorite, Art Supplies for School. I think that name is genius. Think about it. You’re in college and your mom and dad ask what you spent all your money on, and you say, of course, “Art supplies for school!”. See, you aren’t lying.
Anyway, I got the Purple Urkel, about a gram’s worth for thirty-five bucks – it was half a gram for twenty five but he “took care of me” because it was my first visit. He also let me get a free pot brownie to try – and said it would rock my world.
I paid with my credit card – still tee-heeing when I would think back to those college cannabis transactions of yesteryear where it was cash only or I could use my canteen money and buy the dealer a pizza in the “Bear’s Den” but those were special circumstances. I thanked him, app’d my Uber driver and with a little baggie that looked just like a prescript bag from a real pharmacy, I went on my merry way. I hopped in my car, headed home and thought what a great country this… Because as I sat in front of my TV loaded up with my Netflix hit list and I consumed an entire marathon season of South Park, while eating my FREE pot-brownie with extra walnuts, I am reminded of my earlier reference to the incomparable Mister Willy Wonka, played by the God among men comedic and heartfelt styling’s of Gene Wilder, who said;
Willy Wonka: “And Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he’d ever wished for”
Charlie: What happened?
Willy Wonka: He smoked happily ever after.
God bless America and God bless the good state of California.