Sunday, August 01, 2010


We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to fear - fear of war, fear of poverty, fear of random terrorism, fear of getting down-sized or fired because of the plunging economy, fear of getting evicted for bad debts, or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp on vague charges of being a terrorist sympathizer." - Hunter S. Thompson, February 3, 2003

“Nothing’s impossible,” he said. Four months ago I would have agreed. Now I wasn’t so sure. A mean-hearted city ordinance had succeeded in closing over 400 medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles, flushing more than 1,200 perfectly good jobs down the drain, and making access to high quality medicine harder for patients. It also made it harder for the remaining dispensaries to survive. Many were forced to move or at least change their modus operandi.

And here's this carpenter, standing on the retaining wall in front of the now-closed Kush Clubhouse on Venice Beach with a paintbrush in his hand. Through the closed windows I could see the interior was gutted. I felt robbed. One less possibility. Hence his comment about nothing’s impossible. I wish I’d thought to follow up. Not just because I liked his vibe.

I should have asked him what the hell he was doing. I mean, beyond getting the Kush House ready to rent, which was obvious. But what else could he have told me? Where was the journalist in me?

For that matter, where was the photographer in me? I could have gotten some interior shots for the folks back home. But my heart wasn’t in it. I was almost to the car before I realized I’d blown a chance to do some on-the-ground reporting. Was he the owner? Did he work for the owner? Is Dr. Kush the owner? Who is Dr. Kush? How can I get hold of him? Can I go inside and take some pictures? Are you my daddy? But no. I got nothin'. Except maybe a reminder to stay focused. I am reporting on my Medical Marijuana Dispensary Experience from a Patient's Point of View, after all.

An experience made that much poorer with the demolition of this, one of the finest dispensaries in all of Los Angeles, at least in terms of location; beautifully appointed in polished wood, generous seating area with panoramic view, right on the beach. Gutted like a fish. Up for rent in a down economy. What a waste.

I’d been walking North from the Medical Kush Beach Club a few blocks down the boardwalk. Another Dr. Kush establishment, the Kush Club was my first smoking lounge. In fact, my medical marijuana recommendation came from Dr. Kush. But that’s another story for another time. I’d gone to see what further damage the ordinance had done to them. I was hoping the hash bar would still be open, although the smoking lounge was already closed. I was also hoping to run into one of the more interesting people I’d met there. Actually, one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, but that too is another story for another time.

Even if you’re a member of the Medical Kush Beach Club, you can’t just drop in to hang out. Nor can you smoke your own weed there. You have to obtain it on the premises each time you go.

The menu board, with brightly colored letters illuminated against a big black TV screen, is mounted on the wall adjacent to a thick glass pharmacy window. After perusing the slightly over-stimulating list of marijuana strains, I settled on a nice little Sativa-dominant hybrid.

Behind the glass was the same young brunette who was there my first time, but gone was the open, happy vibe. She was on her cell phone. When she dropped her voice to say, “Don’t cry,” into the phone, I moved a respectful distance away and went back to studying the menu.

Finishing up, she turned to me and I made a $14 contribution for the collective effort it took to get me one gram of nature’s finest. Noting the Help Wanted sign in the window I asked what job was available. She said it was at the security desk where they check IDs. Other than that, she didn’t know anything about it.

Other patients were waiting behind me so I thanked her and stepped away. I wandered over to the picture window to look out over Muscle Beach one last time. Without the smoking lounge, I probably wouldn’t be coming here to get my meds anymore. Another broken dream. I took a couple of steps to the right and sat down in the alcove.

On impulse, I pinched off a tiny nugget of fragrant green bud, dropped it into my pipe, and savored a few puffs of “Christmas in July.” Before too long, my trusty bud tender appeared at my side to remind me there was no more smoking in the lounge. Must have been the security camera in my face that tipped her off. Or smoke wafting from the alcove into the big empty room. I thanked her and put my pipe away.

All the other times I’d been here I was more than happy to follow the rules. Prohibition creates outlaws. Freedom has the opposite effect, at least on me. Now that I'm legal, I get a giddy charge out of following the rules. Having finally experienced the feeling of freedom and social acceptance, breaking the rules now was just another bummer.

For the record, I also enjoy paying tax on cannabis. Fellow patients have said it, too: I love paying my taxes on medical marijuana! Seeing it on a receipt actually makes me happy. Politicians, are you listening? We enjoy paying tax on marijuana. Stop making us part of the problem and we’re happily part of the solution.

Last time I was here at the Medical Kush Beach Club, the hash bar was still open. Today that little side room off the main smoking lounge, with the choice rock art, the elegant polished inlaid wood bar, a row of chilled bongs standing at attention,

and the outrageous view of the Pacific, is locked behind an iron door.

And all those compassionate caregivers are out of work; maybe on unemployment. No longer feeding into the economy, instead forced to feed off of it. What the hell, I thought, when I decided to take advantage of the dissolute atmosphere in the once vibrant space and stole my parting puffs. I stared out the same window I’d gazed out of in sheer happy wonder my first time here, three short months ago.

I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

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Blogger Rick said...

Whoa wow girl i loved the detail`s.If i wasn`t a felon id vote in favor of the legalization on the ballot come Nov 4th 2010.

Sincerly Rick a. Callori

9:03 PM  
Blogger Cynthia Johnston said...

Wow right back at you! You're leaving comments before I'm even done tinkering with the format. How'd you get so on top of things? Thanks for the comment. Cheers! c

10:25 PM  
Blogger Cynthia Johnston said...

Dear Reader,
This is a work in progress. If you read the first version, like my friend Rick Callori, you will see the current version is cut by a third. Not to worry. The other parts will be back up in smaller, more easily digestible bites.

Meanwhile, the experiment continues. Medical Marijuana continues to help me control the constant pain in my fingers, hands, wrists, arms and shoulders. It also inspires me to write about "My Dispensary Experience from a Patient's Point of View." In fact, it has not only inspired me to start my blog back up after a year of writer's block, I'm now working on a book, a memoir if you will, inspired by the same experience.

OK then. Stay tuned, and thanks for stopping by.


9:31 AM  

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