Monday, August 23, 2010


When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be.

John Lennon/Paul McCartney, 1970

On April 6, 2010, I "got legal." I now have a license to use Medical Marijuana in California. This being one of many reports, we can go into the process of getting legal some other time. For now, I'll just say that after visiting the on-site "Kush Doctor," my Colorado doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana has been transferred to California and I am now ready for my first California dispensary.

Which is conveniently located right upstairs, as it turns out. First, a stop at the security desk to fill out a form and sign a contract agreeing to follow the laws of the state and the rules of the house.

Once my info's in the computer, I’m officially a member of the collective. Joe the Security Guy escorts me down a long dark hall and opens a heavy metal door with a key. Holding it open, very friendly and welcoming, he lets me pass through. Suddenly I’m overwhelmed by a sensory assault of sight, smell and sound. Sumptuous. Sensual. Sensational. It's a whole new world. I'm blown away.

To my left is a small counter and a menu board boasting an astonishing array of Cannabis strains. I scan the list, divided between Indicas, Sativas and Hybrids, looking for something to kill arthritis pain and writers block (aka depression). It’s only the arthritis that makes me legal, though. Depression, along with a host of other ailments that respond well to medical marijuana, is not on the list of acceptable miseries for which marijuana can be legally recommended.

The striking young brunette behind the window reminds me of forensics specialist Abby Sciuto on NCIS. She goes over the various strains, their effects, and which hybrids would combine to best treat my symptoms.

Generally speaking, Cannabis Sativa is considered "cerebral," affecting the brain and central nervous system. It's best for motivation, "activation," focus, creativity and for treating chronic pain. It's excellent as an anti-anxiety medication and a great anti-depressant. Indica is "physical" and affects the body in general and the muscular and central nervous systems in particular. It's best for sedating, relaxing, treating acute pain, as a muscle relaxant, decreasing nausea and stimulating appetite.

I need the motivational, creative and anti-depressant effects of a Sativa, combined with an Indica to kill the acute pain in my hands and wrists – minus the sedative effect. By the looks of things I've got a lot of experimenting to do.

For my first tests, I select a gram each of Trainwreck OG and Sour G, both Sativa-dominant hybrids, and another of Shake Salad – a mixture of several Sativas, the names of which I promptly forget. Since they don’t allow cameras or recorders, I'm not comfortable taking notes on-site, either. I’m dependent on memory alone to tell this tale. A good exercise for an aging Boomer, if I do say so myself.

One last question. What do you call yourselves? We are Herbalogists, she said. Indeed, behind her in the little apothecary is a sign that says, "Herbalogy."


Having been completely absorbed in my transaction, I turn around and really take in the whole scene for the first time: Spectacular ocean view out two huge picture windows. Big open room with black leather couches in an L-shape – one along the South wall, one against the West wall. A big black leather armchair facing West makes up the third side of the seating area around a large square glass-top coffee table. A small wooden bench stands against the North wall. Between the bench and the main seating area is a pathway to the windows and then a right turn into a little alcove with wooden benches. Music playing. Smoke billowing into the air. Dudes sitting around the table rolling joints and loading pipes. Mellow vibe. “Let It Be” playing on the P.A.

I walk into the lounge, sit down on the bench and begin rolling a joint of Shake Salad, constantly looking up to take in the scene. I can’t believe I’m actually sitting there, rolling a joint in a room full of strangers who are openly smoking weed, everybody smiling, relaxed, chatting amiably. It’s like a scene in a movie, with spot-on dialogue.

Crazy, man.

But so normal.

Yeah. The way it should be.

People should be able to just walk in, buy some weed, smoke it, drink some water (holding up water bottle) and watch the sunset. What's the big deal?

Here. Try some of this. It's from up North.

Smiles all around.

Let It Be.

Welcome to Heaven, says me to a gray haired African American elder as he walks in, followed by a younger African American woman in a strawberry blond wig and an apricot pants suit. A little stooped over, walking with the use of a cane, he moves past me and over to the alcove, taking in the spectacular view:

Down on Muscle Beach, big grown-ups play on big toys.

Body builders, bicyclists, skaters, buskers, hawkers, gawkers, walkers, vendors, tourists, families on Summer vacation, clowns, musicians, singers, rappers and dancers crowd the sidewalk.

I move from the bench against the wall to the big leather couch against the picture window. Dude on my right hands me a large glass pipe full of home-made hash. He’s a distributor from Northern California. Young blond dude with blazing blue eyes sits on the bench against the wall. Movie-star-surfer-looking dude on the big couch opens up a large plastic container, rolls a fat one on the coffee table, puts the container in his backpack and lights up.

We're all talking about how normal, how natural it feels to come in, toke up and watch the sunset.

But weird at the same time.

Not really, not if you’ve been doing it a long time.

Actually, this is my first time.

Well then, it still feels strange to you.

Indeed. He comes off like a world traveler who’s definitely been there and done that. Turns down the hash pipe. “Got a long way to go. Got to keep it together. Peace out, bro.” True to a sign that invites us to “smoke out, not hang out,” he heads for the door. Other signs prohibit cameras, cell phones, alcohol, food, bongs and tobacco, including blunts – joints wrapped in tobacco leaves.

Sister in apricot pants suit comes over to the coffee table to hit on the hash pipe. Hits it a couple times and starts coughing. She passes it to me and sits down. I take a big couple of hits, thinking it won’t happen to me, pass the pipe to a chunky Latina in a blue T-shirt and start coughing my brains out. Some children never learn.

The Elder also declines the hash pipe. “I like where I’m at with the weed.” Looks out the window with the same look in his eyes I had when I returned from the counter a few moments ago. I’d gone back to buy a bottle of water and a lighter and was pleasantly surprised to be gifted with both. After adding a few more bills to the tip jar, I thanked my lovely Herbalogist, turned around and again was stunned by the panorama.

A billion-dollar sunset. A room full of people smiling, talking, smoking herb and drinking water.

The pure, simple beauty of it all.

Thank you, Jesus.

We’re all one big happy family now, all part of the same moment. In the alcove, sitting with the Elder, is a gorgeous young Asian woman in a tank top and mini skirt. Beside her, a young man – I’d say pan-Asian-American – whom I’d seen downstairs earlier and who avoided eye contact, was now grinning back at me with eyes alight. A momentary connection I can still see and feel months later. Who knows, maybe it was a blip on the evolutionary time-space continuum. A hundredth monkey moment. From here the whole species takes a step forward.

And why not?

The Elder leans back against the alcove wall, facing the ocean, a faraway look in his eyes.

Been a long time coming, I say quietly.

But it's here, he softly answers with a smile. It's here... and I love it.

He closes his eyes in contentment.

The trouble with magic is when you’re in the middle of it you think it will last forever.

Then it’s gone.

The whole vibe has changed since that day.

Back in April it felt like the world had suddenly gone sane and anything was possible. I was on a magical journey. There was the proverbial dispensary on every corner. There was a stunning array of excellent, highly effective medicine. People had jobs in a burgeoning new green economy. Everybody was happy. There was a feeling of genuine amazement in the air. It reminded me of Hunter Thompson’s famous “Wave Speech” in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

“There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . . And that, I think, was the handle – that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting – on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .”

And that’s exactly what it felt like in Venice in the Spring of 2010.

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Blogger Cynthia Johnston said...

Dear Reader,
On Friday, August 27th, I happened to discover the Medical Kush Beach Club was open again, Hash Bar and all. More on that happy news later. Our next stop, however, is the Green Goddess Medicinal Cannabis Collective on Windward Avenue in Venice. Until then ~ Mahalo

11:46 PM  

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