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Medical marijuana madness Comment on this post ↓
May 4th, 2013 by Warren Swil

L.A. voters will need a joint after trying

to figure out upcoming ballot: why bother?

FOR ALMOST a year, medical marijuana dispensaries have been on the top of the agenda for the Los Angeles City Council.
In just over two weeks, the voters will decide – because their elected representatives just can’t seem to make up their minds.
First, they banned all 762 dispensaries in July 2012.
As Kate Linthicum reported in the Los Angeles of July 25, “under the ban,

The salesman with the business cards solicits customers for the Venice Beach Physicians storefront medical pot clinic on Hollywood Boulevard on Friday afternoon. © Warren Swil. Use with credit permitted. CC License.

all of the 762 dispensaries registered in the city will be sent letters ordering them to shut down immediately. Those that don’t comply may face legal action from the city.”
Then, about four months later, the Council reversed course.
On Oct. 2, it repealed the ban: “… the Los Angeles City Council retreated … voting to repeal the carefully crafted ban on medical marijuana dispensaries it approved a few months ago,” Linthicum  reported.
On May 21, the voters will take over. If they can!
THREE conflicting measures attempting to impose different sets of regulations are on the ballot in the municipal election. Trying to figure out which one is best – or least bad – will surely give voters a panic attack, depression, loss of appetite: all the symptoms necessary to get a medical pot Rx.
On a pure impulse Friday afternoon, on Hollywood Boulevard exactly where George Burns’ star is imprinted on the sidewalk, I “investigated” the situation. A few minutes earlier, as I arrived for my scheduled appointment with Jim Key, chief public affairs officer of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, he was called into an emergency meeting, which, he said would take about half an hour.
On my way to a Starbucks (not for the coffee – the free WiFi) a gentleman on Hollywood Boulevard handed me a card and, almost whispering, said: “Do you want some medical marijuana?”
“Not right now, thanks. Maybe later,” I said half joking.
Thirty paces down the sidewalk, I swung around, raced back to Venice Beach Physicians storefront and, breathlessly said: “How much?”
Several friends who’s advice I value, have recently recommended I try it as an alternative treatment for the enormous emotional stress from which I been suffering since March 28. They suggest it would be better than the Alprazolam, prescribed by my physician.
Why not give it a try?

The view of Hollywood Boulevard from inside Venice Beach Physicians. © Warren Swil. Use with credit permitted. CC License.

AT this point I did not have this blog post in mind. Jim Key said he would call as soon as he was done with his emergency, and I needed to hurry back when he did call. I had no time to waste.
“Two-hundred-fifty dollars,” said the guy with the business cards manning the front counter of Venice Beach Physicians.
“You gotta be kidding!” I replied.
Misunderstanding the nature of the operation, I asked: “What if I get only half a joint?”
He looked puzzled.
I thought this facility was where customers purchased their pot.
Oh, no! This was where one got “examined” by a rather thorough physician who determined the medical necessity and then certified it.
“Fifty dollars, or nothing,” I said emphatically, turning around to leave the store.
“How about $60?”
“Deal.”
He took my ID and credit card, gave me four pages of forms to fill out, and disappeared into the back office where the clerk began processing my paper work.

WITHIN minutes I was ushered into the doctor’s closet- sized consulting room in the rear of the facility. He was annoyingly thorough.
I kept warning him that if my phone rang, I would bolt and take my $60 with me. “I have to ask you these questions,” he said.
“Can’t you just check ‘All of the above’,” I begged.
About this time it dawned on me what a timely, relevant and perhaps even funny story this would make. I donned my blogging hat.
Eventually, my “Physician’s statement of approval” in hand, I began to photograph the “joint.”
Sitting in the anterior waiting room were the most visually intriguing couple, Morgan LeFlore and “Rae Rabies” (who declined to give her real name.)
“May I take your picture for my blog,” I asked?
They were a bit hesitant, but a huge smile seemed to reassure them.

Morgan LeFlore, left, and “Rae Rabies” await their appointment for a medical marijuana doctor’s examination Friday in the waiting area at Venice Beach Physicians. © Warren Swil. Use with credit permitted. CC License.

You judge if they are visually interesting, from the image.

AFTER my meeting with Jim Key, I rode my motorcycle a few blocks to “Exhale,” on Cahuenga Boulevard. It’s a shocking pink façade something even a stoner could not miss.
Getting security clearance from Nick, the Russian-immigrant uniformed guard behind the reception desk was a bit complicated. It was my first visit, so there was more paperwork, and the language barrier.
I asked Nick if I could take some photos inside. He called the manager, Kevin, who said, flatly: “No.”
My only option was the exterior shot.
Behind the security door, the aroma of ganja filled the air. The room could barely have been 500 square feet. Three or four glass display cases housed the merchandise.
To my left, was the smoking paraphernalia: bongs, pipes, joint clips and the like. Further into the room, on the right was another display case I never got to examine.
Immediately on my right were the edibles. I’ve been smoking about two packs of cigarettes a day for the past month, so the last thing I need is more smoke. But, the last time I used pot, the only way it was obtainable was as weed, and the only way to get the THC into the system was by inhaling. That’s how long ago it was.
The array of digestible pot offerings presented difficult choices, each appealing. I settled on two Swiss chocolate bars. Then, the varieties of smokables was also new: there’s uppers, downers … and in the middle. “I’ll take onee

“Exhale” on Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood. My motorcycle is visible in the bottom left corner. I was trying to signal the photographer to wait for oncoming traffic to pass, but she just kept shooting away. © Warren Swil. Use with credit permitted. CC License.

of each,” I said.
“That will be $36,” said Kevin, the manager who had refused to let me take pictures.
I pulled out my Visa card. “Cash only,” he grinned.
Oops. Did I have enough? I laid all my bills on the counter. $35.
“That’s fine,” Kevin said.
Excluding my trip back to The Center for my meeting, the entire experience took less than an hour.
I tasted the first, tiny piece of chocolate when I got home, and it was delicious. I just had the best night’s sleep in more than a month!



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