I’m collecting my old Medical Marijuana cards the way I saved the few license plates from memorable cars: My first ride that got Andy and me to high school on most days, the plate I saved from my home state, with its pretty logo and motto, as a reminder of where I’ve come from, and the state I’m in now. Sitting in the state of bliss at doctor’s office waiting to get my card renewed, I pretend to read Smokestack El Ropo as I peer over the top of my book. I’m surrounded by newbies, scared that they might be turned down, and old pros like me who know it’s just a matter of not saying the wrong thing. The doctor’s office phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Kyle or Dylan, (I’m making the names up but I’m sure it’s close) has up to five lines on hold with while I wait to for my name be called. When I came here apprehensively four years ago with a legitimate aching bad back and blinding migraines, it was with a sense of quiet and queasy path of going into the unknown. I had debated for two years about getting my card. I wasn’t even sure I would get it, even though I qualified. Then I had to ask myself, if I can get one, do I want it? Did I want the Man to know my whereabouts after many years of living under the wire? Even now there’s small talk around the coffee table displaying West Coast Cannabis, SF Weekly Pot supplement, ‘The Rolling Paper,’ and other south of market newspapers, that the DMV is going to refuse ‘potheads’ that are on a list, not issuing said stoners their privileged right to drive on these mean streets. My jaded, douse-water-on-unfounded-fear-based response to the rumor mill around me is, “That’s why Green Cross delivers.”
I was very excited to see my Doctor. She has pounded me for my last three visits about quitting smoking cigarettes. In order to get a card, you have to provide your medical history and fill out a questionnaire, just like any other doc’s visit. I didn’t lie. I told her I’ve been a pack and a half smoker for thirty years, and loved it. Dr. Barth, who reminds me of Tom Petty’s older sister, only smaller and more ferocious, never backed down. Initially I was worried the smoking thing was going to cloud her judgment about giving me my MMC. That never happened. She always gave me her recommendation but with a strong talking to about quitting the Virginny tobacky. Today I can tell her I’m ten months smoke-free and feel I’ve turned the corner. When I saw her after waiting for twenty minutes, which I didn’t mind as a writer, I like to watch, I entered her office. She had another physician that she was breaking in to help with the over load. The good Doctor didn’t remember me exactly but she knew her cause when it comes to the really evil weed. After telling me how proud she was for me that I had stopped, reminding me that it’s never really over. The first time you feel you’ve beaten the addiction, that’s when you’re most susceptible. Then to prove her point, she said she’s going to do something she rarely does, bring a patient into her backroom. Not really sure where we were going, the new guy came too, Dr. Barth showed me a stack of cigarette packs that people have left after the good doctor’s talking to and they’ve given their word that they’re going to try their best to quit. The cynic in means believes they did it to better their chances with the doctor to get their MMC, but at the same time, she is brutal when it comes to the ciggy butts.
We had a nice talk while she filled out this year’s recommendation. As we spoke about this and that, how the business is growing and the like, she’s gone from two offices to six, there’s more people working in her office now, I had to ask, “Do you ever turn anyone down for a card?”
“Of course! Not everyone can handle the responsibility and some...some come in here drunk, surly, and maybe psychotic. I help many people who are down and in need of psychological assistance. Don’t forget I had a practice in Mendocino for years where I guided those who needed help to the proper services and treatments,” The doc says with a toothy grin just this south of Cheshire.
I think I might have embarrassed myself with the last question. Trying not to dig a deeper hole, I ask for my recommendation and prescription and I’d be on my way.
“I don’t do that,” Dr. Barth says.
Oh, boy, I think. I did piss her off.
“I can’t write a prescription, only a recommendation.”
“Really,” I save relieved.
“A doctor can only write a recommendation. Look on the form I give you for you to get a state card or into the clubs. It only says, ‘Recommendation.’”
“But I’m a patient. I need a ‘script for my medicine.”
“Because Marijuana is illegal except by a doctor’s order, we can only write recommendations, not prescriptions,” the good doctor informed me.
“Yes, really. That’s the way it is for now.”
I said good-bye to Dr. Barth and the new guy. Went back to the inner office where I was receiving my Therapeutic Cannabis Recommendation with that all important state seal. While Madison or Chloe processed my paperwork, I asked her if people were ever really turned downed for their card. I mean a guy hears stories about drag queens getting a card because of bad ankles from wearing size fourteen heels and someone suffering from ‘Terminal Euphoria.’ Mia or Natalie almost scolds me that yes, of course, not everyone who can walks through the door gets a card. Emma or Isabella let’s it slips that not only does the doctor try to get everyone who needs help in the right treatment plan or the best social service available, the doctor is able to arrange from her small perch South of Market for people who have less than a few dollars in their pockets. Much to my chagrin to make me feel stupider and dumber, she quietly lets me know the doctor has a sliding scale that she doesn’t advertise for patients who come to see her who need other services besides a dopey MMC.
I left in the rain not feeling the downpour but singing in the streets that I live in the greatest city in the world. Yes, there is hypocrisy, but it’s the kind I can live with and relish in.
And bottom line, I have my card.