I am sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room. This is no ordinary doctor’s office – it’s one of the network of Medicann offices, and I am here to get a prescription for medical marijuana.
Why am I here today? After railing against the idea for so long? After claiming I’d rather be a criminal than a patient? Because I have a moving truck sitting in the parking lot – ready to be unpacked into a grow house.
The wait is quite ordinary; I am not seen until an hour and fifteen minutes after my appointment time. There are about ten people in the waiting room with me, and from what I can see it is a constant stream of people – and this is not a day that the office accepts walk-in patients. As I wait, I observe the process.
There is a receptionist who copies each patient’s California Driver’s License when they enter the office, takes prior records relating to the condition, and hands out forms to fill out. When the forms are completed and returned to her with a $150 payment, she does some paperwork and attaches them to a clipboard which she puts in a plastic sorting thing hanging outside the doctor’s office. The doctor spends at least fifteen minutes with each patient. When the patient exits the office, the doctor takes the next chart and calls the next patient in. The patient returns to the receptionist and has their photo taken, and is issued an embossed prescription including a photocopy of their license, and a photocopy of that which they are instructed to carry on their person at all times. The laminated card for which the photo is taken will be sent in the mail. A pamphlet listing nearby medical marijuana providers is included in the packet handed to the patient.
After filling out my form where I admit to vaporizing a gram of marijuana a day to deal with neck pain, and rate the “side effects” of its use on a 1 to 10 scale of discomfort (I give the munchies a 10) – I am offered coffee, tea or water, which I refuse. I overhear that the doctor I am to see today is the founder of Medicann, and cycles from office to office in the network. I feel lucky.
The waiting room is clean, but not sterile like other doctor’s offices. It’s painted a pleasant, light forest green. There is a running fountain in the corner, and plenty of windows. Instead of magazines there are pamphlets educating patients about other alternative healing options – acupuncture, massage, nutrition. I am happy to see these and find it ironic considering that the doctor I am about to see is an M.D. - not an alternative practitioner. I also find it encouraging that the average stoner seeking their scrip will be educated about these modalities.
The other patients range in age and size and class and race and the visibility of their illness. The girl before me comes out of the office. It’s the day after her 21st birthday and she has just woken up - she asks the receptionist if she can go home, get made up, and put on a bra before her photo is taken. The receptionist acquiesces.
It’s my turn. The doctor calls my name. He is a light skinned black man with a few small dreadlocks running down the length of his back. He looks healthy. He is not wearing a white coat. I walk into the office and take a seat. He goes over my chart, and is so impressed by the letter written by my massage therapist he asks me if he can have her name and number, which I provide. He hands me back my chiropractic records, telling me that he only needs one piece of paper because the folders get very thick and won’t fit in the file cabinet.
He then asks me to stand up and turn my head and raise my arms and other ridiculous and ineffective ways of checking on my neck. I thank the State of California for turning us all into liars who perform elaborate dances and speak in jargon while fully knowing that it’s a farce.
It is true that my neck only turns so far in one direction, and that I suffer from neck pain. It is not true that marijuana helps in the slightest, it only makes it worse. I keep this fact to myself.
He tells me I should look on the Americans for Safe Access website for details on my rights as a medical marijuana patient. He says that I may use my medicine anywhere – but if I am in a motor vehicle I must stop, pull over to the side of the road, sit in the passenger seat if I’m not already there – and take the keys out of the ignition. In the next sentence he tells me that it is illegal to drive under the influence.
He educates me that I can use “medicine” in a balm form to soothe the muscles in my neck. I genuinely did not know that before he told me so. I still haven’t tried it.
As a punchline, he comes to the part of the form where it asks the name of my M.D. I wrote “n/a” on the form.
“I see you have no Medical Doctor”
“No, I’ve just used massage, chiropractics, and yoga to handle the pain. I guess I should find one.”
“In Heaven’s name no. You are already doing everything you should be to treat your condition.”
“DO NOT find a Medical Doctor, you do not need one. We just want to give you drugs.”