Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Medical Marijuana Subculture

I've lived in California for forty years and if you had told me when I arrived in 1973 that, one day, I'd be a married lesbian and have access to legal marijuana I'd have assumed you were either delusional or quite stoned. But today, both these things are true and yet the earth keeps revolving and the sky remains in place.

I've never been a much of a pothead. Truthfully, back in those hippie days, cocaine and quaaludes were my drugs of choice with an occasional acid trip thrown in for perspective. I hate smoke and the very thought of smoking anything makes my throat ache. But recent eye problems caused me to visit an opthomologist who diagnosed me with high-intraocular pressure, a possilble symptom of, or precursor to, glaucoma.

Of course, as soon as I get a new diagnosis, I do what everyone in the digital age does, that is head straight to my computer for more information. I expected to find health guidelines like cut down on sugar or salt or caffeine but instead, I found the most mentioned folk rememedy was cannabis. In fact, glaucoma was the disease that first propelled the medical marijuana movement into existence.

Armed with a letter from my long-time doctor, who admittedly partakes a bit herself, I ventured toward one of the several dispensaries near my home. The fact is that Berkeley has one pot dispensary for every 28,000 residents, a record number in the world of legalized weed.

To enter the place, I had to pass muster with the security guard, an African-American woman who examined my letter and complimented me on my t-shirt and earrings. After being registered in the waiting room, I proceeded into the purchasing area full of display cases of grass with names like "blueberry haze" and "tangerine dream." I was magically transported back to the days of windowpane and orange sunshine.

After explaining to the counter guy that I wanted something that would help me sleep and last through the night, he introduced me to the world of edibles. There were several choices that encompassed my requirements: capsules, bars, carmel-like chewy things; my mind was boggled. I settled on a chew, a professionally wrapped indica morsel, the sleep inducing variety. The sativa strain is more for those speedy highs that made me so anxious and paranoid many years ago. Because it was my first visit, I was also given a lighter and a free sample of mint chocolate for an entirely different type of high.

It cost twelve dollars and was only supposed to provide four doses. I took about a twentieth of it, instead of a fourth and, after nearly an hour, I became pleasantly tired. I did drifted off to sleep without my usual ambien and was still a bit stoned eight hours later when I awoke.With my super-sensitivity to drugs, this stuff can last me for quite a while.

A couple of days later I tried again to estimate the right amount. But that night I had to take my prescription pill along with the edible. I realized that dispensing with my ambien was proving harder than I'd hoped. And Blue Shield pays for sleeping pills but due to federal law, I cant' use my insurance to buy marijuana.

I will check out a couple more dispensaries and keep trying for the perfect sleep-inducing, ocular-pressure-reducing mix. I feel a bit like Alice now. I've passed through the looking glass but am a bit flummoxed by the wide-array of mind-altering substances here to choose from.