Friday, October 17, 2014

Reefer Sadness



I get a medical marijuana card within minutes of the law taking effect. Although this may not have been the case everywhere, I do have to submit medical records and undergo a relatively comprehensive interview. At the time I am experiencing pretty severe anxiety but the novelty of extra strong weed being available in a veritable department store venue produces mixed results. Incapacitating stress diminishes but I over imbibe and make some bad decisions while under the influence. Now, for me, the line between medical and recreational has become blurred. When someone has a brutal day and chugs a few martinis to unwind, the alcohol is not ascribed medicinal properties. But how many prescription Xanax are popped with the same objective as a shot of hard liquor? The bud I buy in the Gelson's parking lot is recreational (and illegal) and what I pick up at the collective down the street is medicine. Except to the federal government. And maybe me.

My use of cannabis varies these days. I often go a couple weeks without partaking but once or twice a week is probably typical. Since the early days of dope emporiums I've instituted some ground rules that I adhere to strictly. When medicated, I never drive, create a customer invoice or send an e-mail. I presume that some friends and acquaintances would disapprove of my commission of a federal crime. But it's not like anyone could think any worse of me than what I, for the most part, think of myself. I wonder often if there's something wrong with me, maybe a character deficit. Pot transports me to a state of being I am seldom able to attain without the use of it. For all the grandiosity and epiphany, which I have learned to treat with a grain of salt, when I am under the influence I am more forgiving of myself. Much of the creative output that I am the most satisfied with emerges, when somehow, THC delivers me from crippling inhibition and shame. And yes, when I'm high is about the only time I don't feel guilty about getting high. I am sure there are a number of non-narcotizing alternatives that might prove effective in diminishing my angst but at age 57 I lack the inclination to try new things.

The co-op I frequent in the bay area is staffed by old hippies so I don't stand out that much. I just have to count my change. When I do have to make a local purchase I am so self conscious that I go all manic and can't stop my own inane blather. I notice that most of the other “patients” here in L.A. are in their twenties. I can't help but theorize that if the quality of pot sold now was easily obtainable when I was in my twenties I would be a total burnout now.

My friend's sister is afflicted with ALS. A cannabis tea provides comfort in the past and my friend approaches me to run a dispensary errand for her. Even though I totally get the wink-wink bullshit of the local medical marijuana industry, I try to be a good citizen and purchase from the dispensary for my own use only. Given my friend's sister's suffering I make an exception. A number of Los Angeles dispensaries have been shuttered so there are some complications. My friend ends up spending way too much money to endure a very brief interview with a physician via Skype and is issued a medical marijuana card for herself on the spot. And now the fun begins. Not. I've had a long time to experiment and discover which products are effective for me. I prefer a capsule called Kind-Cap which I purchase in the Bay Area. But even having used these for years, once in a while there is a wild variation in the potency. Sometimes I take a dud and there have been a couple occasions when I want to chill a bit and take my usual dose only to find myself in a drooling stupor.

My friend and I discuss the tea that is effective for her sister in the past. In involves two separate strains of kush, a form of indica which is the more psychoactive than the sativa variety. As the preponderance of dispensaries are staffed by potheads, often website menus are not updated. Nevertheless, “White Widow” and “Northern Lights” do not appear to be available at all locally so my friend is going to have to improvise. There is, I discover in the course of my research, a dispensary called “The House of Dank.” Real medical sounding, right?

Given that what ails me is all in my head and while it would be an annoyance if suddenly there was no cannabis available, I cannot honestly categorize my personal experience as suffering. The lady with ALS is in New Hampshire, a state that has passed medical marijuana legislation which will not go into effect until 2015. While the first experiment with medical marijuana proves salubrious, subsequent attempts are a crap shoot. There is absolutely no regulation or standardization of medical marijuana products. There's a chance that the tincture my friend makes will not relieve her sister's discomfort at all and there's also a possibility that it will induce anxiety and paranoia.

It is suggested that marijuana is effective in the treatment of pain, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, seizures, type 2 diabetes and other maladies way more severe than me feeling uptight. There is one British company (GW Pharmaceuticals) doing serious research with medical cannabis. Based on my limited research however, big U.S. Pharma is pretty much hands off. It is likely that medical cannabis will be legalized in most states in the near future and chances are that legal recreational pot will also become quite prevalent. I suspect that because marijuana is cheap and widely available, the lack of potential profitability for the pharmaceutical industry has resulted in a dearth of research.

There is a barrage of advertising for what I call vanity pharmaceuticals. I know that age related bladder leakage, vaginal dryness and diminished testosterone are no picnic but the advertising budgets to push pharmaceuticals which treat the normal ravages of age are staggering. New weight loss medications are peddled aggressively. I find a list of medications that have been approved by the FDA in 2014. There are a couple to treat diabetes and Crohn's disease, both of which are extremely widespread so these meds are huge cash cows. Although it is assumed that inexpensive medical marijuana would also have good results in treating these common ailments, research is scant.

About a hundred new medications have been approved for the year. There are very few drugs being released that treat maladies which I haven't heard of. It is impossible to look at this list and not notice the underlying profit motive. Along with Crohn's, diabetes and the afflictions of the over 50 crowd, there are remedies for acne, allergies and toenail fungus. Yes, there are a couple of drugs for the treatment of cancer but until there is a generic available, I wonder to what extent these will be readily accessible.

Perhaps, decriminalization and the approval for quasi-medical use of marijuana has totally screwed those who would most benefit from it. I can say with certainty however, the way the pharmaceutical industry operates results in many people being screwed. The argument against reining in big pharma is that research will dwindle when the carrot of huge financial gain is removed. The whole pharmaceutical industry is really shameless in demonstrating again and again that a big payday trumps compassion.

I know that marijuana is panacea for myriad ailments. I feel guilty that my specious occasional use may contribute to the lack of funded research. I hope my friend gets the formula right and that her sister experiences relief. Other patients, including the parents of seizure prone children have uprooted themselves and moved to Colorado and Washington, states where marijuana is legal. How sad that an FDA regulated marijuana product isn't available at the pharmacy. If foregoing my own consumption would help towards promoting research to make medical marijuana safe and reliable for those with a more legitimate need for it I would burn my card. Which is easy to say given the improbability of the scenario. And even if “medical” becomes really medical, knowing myself, I'd likely end up copping in the Gelson's parking lot.