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Is Marijuana Medical? Part One: How I Got a Cannabis Prescription from a Porn Star

Poppycock

Carrie Poppy

August 2, 2013

I’m in the noisiest lobby of all time. It’s practically barren, with two chairs, a coffee table slathered in business cards, and a tiny window to the receptionist. When I wave hello at her, she seems startled.

“Oh! Yes! Hi!”

“Do I need an appointment?”

“No.”

“Okay, great. I’d like an exam.”

I’ve never smoked pot. At all. The concept of voluntarily breathing smoke always seemed like a bad idea. It was never around me much anyway. In high school, I spent all my nights rehearsing plays. There was no time for drugs or parties. In college, my friends were drinkers when they had parties at all. But here I am, asking for a prescription to buy marijuana for medical purposes. I’m well aware that plenty of people take advantage of California’s medical marijuana law for recreational use, so I’m worried I’ll be grilled about my symptoms. That’s already proving unfounded.

She asks for my ID, and compliments my name in her thick Russian accent. The sound of zooming ambulances blasts through the open door. She pauses. When the ambulances stop, she resumes. This is obviously a common distraction.

“You want your medical marijuana card?” she asks.

“Yes.”

“Okay, you want the one with the photo or without?”

“With, I guess.”

“$60.”

“Oh... don’t I have to see the doctor?”

“Yes, but you pay now.”

“Oh... okay.”

I give her $60 in cash and sit down with a questionnaire. It asks me for my basic medical history and the complaint that brings me here.

“Chronic migraines.”

The receptionist interrupts me to take my photo for the card.

“Wait, I don’t have to see the doctor first?”

“Naw.”

“Oh.”

I give her an awkward smile from my side of the bullet-proof glass. She snaps a picture of me. She tells me I look better with my glasses off, so we take another.

“Much prettier,” she says. “Like Cameron Diaz.”

The medical forms tell me repeatedly, in bold, that I MUST PROVIDE CURRENT GENERAL PRACTITIONER’S CHARTS. I tell the receptionist I don’t have these. She nods and says it doesn’t matter.

She leads me to the back through a wide, dirty, unsettlingly empty hallway. I want to know what’s in the dark alcoves we pass, but she leads me into a tiny cubicle containing a blonde man.

“That’s the doctor,” she says, pointing right at his nose. It’s awkward.

“Yes, I see,” I say, and she leaves.

“I’m Doctor Edson,” he says1, smiling and shaking my hand.

He looks a lot like a doctor from a soap opera: chiseled jaw and yellow-blonde hair. You’d definitely think his name was Keith, which it isn’t. Dr. Keith is going to decide if I can get a prescription for medical marijuana under California’s Proposition 215, the California Compassionate Care Act. According to Prop 215, anyone with a malady that is commonly eased by cannabis, and a prescription, may “possess and cultivate” the drug. I would just like to possess. I’ve been struggling with migraines for a year now, since I worked for (and eventually left) the BossFromHell®. Migraines are one of the most common qualifiers for medical cannabis, so here I am.

“Hi,” I say, “You need some art in here.”

“Yeah, it’s not my place. I would spruce up the decor if I could.”

He’s friendly and attentive. I’ll learn later, when I look his name up at home, that he is a plastic surgeon who does this work on the side. He has a particular interest in how marijuana helps cancer patients. He has also filed for bankruptcy and has an extensive website devoted to his acting credits, which are mostly a string of gay pornography films.

Dr. Edson looks at my chart and asks me about my headaches. He’s filling out another sheet as he listens to my symptoms. My migraines are fairly typical: Mostly on one side, sometimes behind my eyes. They make me vomit, and sometimes they affect my vision.

“Well, those certainly sound like migraines,” says Dr. Edson. “And marijuana helps?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I’ve never used it.”

He stares at me.

“Oh!” he says, “Ever?”

“Never.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine.”

He nods slowly, like someone accepting the news that the camp they went to when they were six has just burned down. You know, that nod.

“Well,” he says, “Let’s give it a go.”

He writes me a prescription and describes the different methods people use to ingest marijuana: vaporizing, smoking, eating. I still can’t stomach the thought of intentionally inhaling fumes, so I say vaporizing and eating are for me.

“I hope it works for you, Carrie,” he says, “Anything’s worth a try, right?”

The woman behind the counter doesn’t notice me as I leave. She’s eating pound cake.

---

The next day, I pick up my medicine. The dispensary is in a strip mall. The windows are pitch black, and I can’t even tell if the place is open. I walk in timidly, looking like a little girl who has to sell chocolates outside a strip club to pay for her mom’s chemo. I half expect the woman behind the counter to snap gum and say “What’s your name, honey?” while appraising my thighs. But she flashes a bright smile and welcomes me. We are in a tiny alcove secured by barred windows and bullet-proof glass. There’s a second door, but I have to be buzzed into that one; it’s like a nightclub, but with patient stoners. Like a Los Angeles nightclub.

“I have no idea what I’m doing,” I explain, “but my doctor advised me to get a vaporizer. For my headaches.”

“Oh! Headaches! Okay... Gosh, I don’t know anything about vaporizing. I am experimenting with edibles. You just eat a brownie and go to sleep!”

I nod slowly, the way you nod when you find out the camp you went to when you were six has just burned down. There’s a long pause, then she remembers what I asked.

“Oh, right, so... The bartender can tell you more inside.”

“Bartender?” I ask. She buzzes me in.

All of the other patients are sitting in a waiting room, staring at a fish tank. All four are men. It reeks of weed. A sign on the wall says “CELL PHONES ABSOLUTELY PROHIBITED.” One of the patients tells me to grab a form and fill it out. The fellow next to me must spy something in me: the smell of washed clothing, perhaps?

“First time?” he asks.

“Yeah.”

“You’ll be all right.”

This seems not at all reassuring, since no one has ever felt the need to tell me I will be all right in a pharmacy before, but I nod as if it’s helpful.

“Believe me, it’s quick,” he says. I am 90 percent sure I’m about to receive assisted suicide.

The whole place feels vaguely naughty and drenched in 4/20 culture. Nothing about it seems like a pharmacy, save that I have to present a prescription to even get in. There’s loud music, pictures of marijuana leaves everywhere, and posters that surely look better under a black light. This isn’t the best atmosphere if the medical marijuana movement wants to gain credibility.

The bartender gestures me in. He looks like he should be named Jeth, but he’s not. Bartender Jeth looks me up and down. I’m acting pretty confident, the way I imagine someone acts who has smoked marijuana before. Apparently I associate this with a lot of large gestures, because I immediately become an Italian chef in a sitcom.

“I need to get some oil for my vaporizer,” I say, wildly gesturing in front of my face.

“First time?” he asks.

“Yeah.”

“Great, we’ll take care of you,” he says.

And I believe him.

This article is one in a series of two. Read more in the next Hot Drinks.


1 But he didn’t.

Carrie Poppy

Carrie Poppy's photo

Carrie Poppy is the cohost of the investigations podcast Oh No, Ross and Carrie. She regularly writes and speaks on social justice, science, spirituality, faith, and claims of the paranormal. She also performs, mostly in funny things. She only has one fully functioning elbow.