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...But to live outside the law

You must be honest.

Bob Dylan – Absolutely Sweet Marie

Here’s my problem: Medical Marijuana is legal. Recreational marijuana is not. But Marijuana doesn’t know the difference. She has a naughty habit of crossing the line. Refusing to stop at pain relief, she slyly transports you to the Fun Zone.

And once you’re in the fun zone you’ve crossed the line.

Ever since I got legal in early April, I've been trying to do a serious scientific study of Medical Marijuana from a patient’s point of view. But I've just about unhinged myself trying to keep a straight face about the whole thing. The truth is, marijuana isn't just medicine; it's also serious fun.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, let's get back to the business of using marijuana for medicinal purposes only. I don’t need the wind and rain to tell me it’s Autumn. My flaming knuckles have been predicting this weather for weeks; arms aching to the bone; thumbs and fingertips scalding. But let us not lapse into negativity. And let us also not wander into the fun zone. After all, that would be a crime.

I don’t plan to make a career out of describing my pain. But since my plan is to experience as many different strains of medical marijuana as possible, in search of the perfect cure for arthritis and depression, I need to at least set the baseline. The arthritis pain is relatively new. It comes with age. I’ll be 66 in November. The depression has been with me as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve a little thing we like to call “suicidal ideation.” Those thoughts remain a constant companion – more like a neurotic friend with a morbid sense of humor than an actual threat, so don’t get all suicide hotline on me, OK?

Besides, we are not here to dwell on the negative. We are on a mission. A healing mission.

Here’s the drill: I go to a dispensary and tell the caregiver what I’m looking for. I try to be consistent, although I use depression and writer’s block interchangeably. To me, they’re the same. One causes the other and each makes the other worse. And I’m not going back on anti-depressants. So, I need a pain-killer that won’t put me to sleep or dull my senses the way Vicodin does. I need something uplifting and inspiring. I need creative energy. I need pain-killing, high-energy, creative inspiration.

That’s a lot to ask a little bud.

Invariably my caregiver will recommend a Sativa or hybrid, meaning a combination of Sativa and Indica, in varying degrees. Say 70/30 Sativa/Indica. We can go into greater detail later, but for now let’s just say that Sativa is considered cerebral, while Indica has a physical effect. Or, to risk crossing the thin Green line into the fun zone, Sativa is a “head high” while Indica is a “body high.”

After the strains, we get into brand names. Blue Dream. Blackberry Kush. Dragon. Endless Sky. Purple Haze. Skywalker. Jack Herer. A literally mind-blowing array of choices.

This is where it gets to be a challenge. You’re looking at a list of about forty different designer plants, each carefully grown somewhere by someone who cares very deeply about the effect that plant will have on you, the patient.

The care doesn’t stop there. When I refer to caregivers, I’m not tossing the word around lightly. Every bud-tender, “herbalogist,” or caregiver I have encountered has given me fully-focused personal attention. And compassion. This is another term that gets bandied about. But to a person suffering from depression, a moment of understanding; a few words and fearless eye contact that says, “I get it. I’ve been there,” can be the first step toward healing. It doesn’t take long. It doesn’t have to. But it could be a life-saver. You never know. All I know is that compassion is one of my criteria, when it comes to the dispensary experience itself.

Then there’s the medicine. As my best friend, my doctor, says, Medically, it’s about how does it feel and how does it function.

We’ll make that the bottom line.

So there you are, staring at about forty glass jars filled with happy little green buds. Your caregiver opens one after another for you to lean over and breathe in the variegated and subtle scents of each kind. Some fruity, others pungent and dank, all smelling deeply, gorgeously of Nature. Even without smoking them, the buds give off an exciting energy. It’s the energy of life. And when there are live plants growing in the room, that energy is even higher.

Decision time. Indoor and outdoor grown are also factors. After a while the names and scents and images of so many different kinds of cannabis all run together and my mind is abuzz. I’m definitely over-stimulated and giddy, but I’ve narrowed my selection down to three. At this point I go with my caregiver’s recommendation.

The next day, after my morning coffee has begun to cut through the fog of pain, I pinch a small amount, about the size of a TicTac, off a bud and crumble it into a small, clean glass pipe.

I jot down the date, time, dispensary name and the brand name of the cannabis, and take one puff. Maybe two. The next time I look up I may be three pages into my journal. Somewhere along the line, I’ve forgotten my pain.

Thursday, April 22, 2010.

Earth Day. 7:25 AM and three puffs into my Endless Sky from the Green Goddess.

Immediate effect, head-wise. Hyper-aware of the quality of light, which has diminished from this morning's sunrise...

…When I dropped by the Green Goddess, I said, One of the things I wanted to let you guys know is I had to tear myself away from my journal this morning to take my friends to the airport.

“Oh yes,” said Christina with her blazing turquoise eyes. “Dragon is very creative.”

She may have said Sativa in general is very creative. Again, as I launch into this project I see a subcategory emerging that is all about keeping my mind alive and my brain functioning.

One of the general rules of dispensary culture is no electronic devices. No cameras or cell phones. So far, I’ve even been hesitant to take notes, 1) to build trust and 2) to exercise my brain. Have I mentioned I’ll be 66 in November?

Anyway, this kind of kicks the “scientific” part of the experiment out the door. I’m not asking the exact same questions in the exact same order and writing down the answers verbatim. So clearly “scientific” is too strong a word. Perhaps “gonzo” would be more accurate.

8:30 AM and I’m on Page 8. This truly is remarkable and once again I’m transported back to San Francisco in the ‘seventies. One little bowl of Endless Sky.

That’s exactly how the first puff felt. Endless Sky…. I smiled at the thought. Haven’t felt that particular connection to Spirit in a while….


I’ll tell you this: it’s been decades since I’ve scribbled in my journal the way I did today. And yesterday. Restoring my almost child-like impulse to write down everything that streams into my head is a miracle of creative healing.

One of the reasons I like the Green Goddess, I told Christina yesterday, is the interaction between patients and caregivers. The way you work with us to…

“Give you exactly what you want?” she finished my sentence. Exactly, says me. By the way, what do you call yourselves?


Come to think of it, the Green Goddess never lured me into the fun zone. Instead, the caregivers there are wildly, passionately in love with what they do. They are all about the medicine.

Other collectives have gone all-out to create a scene around the culture of medical marijuana, which is definitely fun, but it puts them in the cross-hairs of the Law. Ironically, staying religiously focused on the medicine didn’t spare the Green Goddess from being raided by the police, placing caregivers, patients and even onlookers in legal jeopardy, and disrespecting the medicine by dumping all of it into one big bag. Mean-hearted. The opposite of compassion. And the noble concept that the Law is here to protect and serve feels more like a cruel joke.

But let us not dwell on the negative. We are, after all, on a healing mission.

This post first appeared on CYNTHIA JOHNSTON, please read the originial post: here

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