Follow the scrip

A sometimes smoker, first-time patient shares his experience obtaining a medical-cannabis referral

My personal intake of marijuana has been spotty over the last 30 years, with usage varying from more often than a visit from Halley’s comet to less than putting out the garbage each week. But brushing through the numerous cannabis ads in SN&R got me wondering about this new commercial endeavor in California, and what it was really all about. A few weeks back, I had to satisfy my curiosity.

Full disclosure: I rent office space from SN&R and have carved out a share of business in the alternative-newspaper industry across the United States. But my reasons for seeking a medical-marijuana prescription were not trumped up knowing my history of chronic digestive maladies.

I drove to a conveniently located referral-business establishment in Midtown and arrived before the joint opened. While cooling my heels in the air-conditioned auto, an odd group of people, looking as though they’d arrived early to line up for concert tickets, gathered. This was a veritable hodge-podge: all ages, all ethnicities, some hobbling or in wheel chairs, some looking like they just come from the gym, all sizes and shapes, and a few more tattoos than I’m accustomed to seeing at the doctor’s office.

We all entered the building without pushing or shoving, got in line to fill out forms and took seats in the lobby. The entire office area had to be no more than 800 square feet and reminded me of those dreary scenes from that Tom Hanks movie Joe Versus the Volcano. A mixture of new and used office furniture and fixtures from different eras reflected a casual decorating sense. There were even a few exposed or broken electrical outlets, and a lingering smell that I couldn’t quite place.

A guy in line in front of me asked the clerk processing paperwork if he could be kept off the mailing list. He was dressed in a shirt and tie and slacks, like he had just stepped out for a quick lunch from his office and ended up here.

After a bit, I was called into the antechamber to the doctor, an M.D. of some sort (I wasn’t there to question his credentials or search the walls for diplomas). He was a funny-looking fellow: bearded, a very slight build, which, I later found out, was due to having lost part of his stomach during combat. We shared a moment about being extremely thin, but that was about as close as he would allow himself to my side of the desk. I did have a blood-pressure device around my arm; I’m assuming that was for appearances or protocol, because it was never mentioned again during the session.

He asked me a number of times whether I was in pain, or if there was pain anywhere on my body except my head or stomach, which sounded funny at the time, because that’s where I seem to have the most frequent discomfort.

And what difference would that make? I figured Dr. Quackenbush was gonna sign whatever he needed to and shuffle me along, anyway. There were more customers anxiously waiting to see him.

I wanted my driver’s license back; it made me a little nervous having given it up. Who knows what kind of databases I might inconveniently show up on in the future? Also, I discovered that this was a cash business, but I only had plastic, so I had to make a trip to the ATM a few blocks away.

On my way back to pick up my final paperwork and card, I thought to myself, “Where else can you find quality care that will result in marijuana that’s as convenient and fast?” It felt a little like the quickie-mart version of the entire process, but I wasn’t complaining. I had a lot on my plate that day and didn’t want to spend the afternoon staring at bad daytime TV in a depressing lobby.

And none of this really mattered, because obtaining a medicinal-marijuana card is not about the décor, the odor of the room, the motley crew that you share the 30 minutes of lobby time with or even the employees’ gentle customer-service approach. It’s all about getting that certificate and either going on a shopping trip or planting something new in your garden.