Intersections: Does filling a cannabis prescription feel normal?

July 25, 2013|By Liana Aghajanian

A few weeks ago, I mentioned to a friend I was working on a story about medical marijuana usage among seniors and the challenges they face using it in assisted living facilities for real, debilitating ailments.

In turn, she mentioned to me that she was thinking of going to get a recommendation from a doctor to begin using cannabis for debilitating migraine headaches she'd had for some time. I jumped at the chance to accompany her.

In the course of my reporting, I had attended cannabis club meetings for seniors in Orange County, driven to Oakland to visit the largest marijuana dispensary in the United States and attended classes with those who were looking to start their own collective, but I hadn't gone to see the process of getting a doctor's referral for myself.

Last Wednesday, we drove off together to a strip mall in a nondescript part of L.A., where in between a mechanic, deli and barber shop, sat the office of a medical marijuana doctor. The green cross— used as a symbol for marijuana dispensaries and evaluations — in the parking lot signified that we were in the right place.


She was nervous, and so was I. Despite its legal status in California and more than a dozen other states, it still felt on some level, wrong. I attribute that to the brilliant indoctrination I received, along with many other school-age children of the time in programs like D.A.R.E and similar forces on a grander scale.

With looming anxiety, we made our way up to the second-floor office, where we were greeted by a receptionist who handed her paperwork to fill out. Nothing really gave away that this was indeed, a medical office specializing in marijuana referrals. It was neat, boring and beige.

After my friend was called to go in, I hung around outside, watching more patients fill the empty seats around me. They were a diverse bunch, both in age and ethnic backgrounds.

After about 10 minutes, she emerged, signed recommendation in hand.

"So, how was it?" I cautiously asked.

"Surprisingly simple," she answered.

Before I could finish asking questions, we were driving to a dispensary to put the referral to use. The first thing you notice about a dispensary is the overwhelming smell of marijuana permeating from its crevices. The smell is potent but gets less distracting the more you're around it.

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