Just talked to a friend who decided to go through California’s “medical marijuana” rigamarole in order to be able to light up legally. I thought his account might be of interest to those curious about how the system works in practice.
First stop was the office (one of three) of Michael Morris, M.D. The window of the storefront office helpfully lists a range of conditions for which the good doctor is happy to write “recommendations.” Dr. Morris’s website gives the flavor: the theme is marijuana and the sale of permission to purchase it, not the practice of medicine if that means diagnosing and treating disease.
After a cursory physical examination (blood pressure, listening to the lungs, tapping the liver) and a medical history consisting of a non-specific account of occasional difficulty sleeping, the “patient” was asked whether he wanted a six-month recommendation for $75, which would cost another $75 to renew once it expired, or a one-year recommendation for $140. That seemed, to my friend and to me, a remarkably frank disclosure of the doctor’s actual business model; there was no suggestion that a one-year recommendation would require a more thorough history and physical.
Total time spent with the doc: about 15 minutes, mostly consumed by discussion of legal matters (e.g., the patient was warned not to bring cannabis onto federal reservations, including parklands). No suggestion that the “patient” follow up with the physician about effects or side-effects.
Next stop was a store, whose name I think I’ll withhold but whose website has a “menu” page listing such items as “Snicklefritz,” “Purponic,” “U2 Kush,” and “Mystery Girl” (described as “a smooth, flavorful smoke we know you’ll enjoy”). The website also promises that “New members receive a free 1/8 of medicine, so stop in soon while supplies last.” The shop’s colorful, glossy business card adds a careful proviso: “Minimum donation required.” The pretense is that “members” are receiving their medicine as a gift, and are making “donations” (credit cards accepted) rather than payments. Ergo, no sales tax. I’m still trying to puzzle out the logic of the phrase “Minimum donation required;” I don’t think it quite parses, though I might think otherwise had I been sampling the product.
My friend had heard (from me) about the significance of the ratio of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to cannabidiol (CBD). Since he wanted to be relaxed rather than energized, he asked for something with relatively high CBD content. The very friendly but somewhat puzzled folks running the store had never heard about any of this and had no idea of the chemical content of the products they were selling, but suggested the “indica” strains, specifically “U2 Kush,” described on the website as “Very potent, with a couch lock effect.” (Does that mean the user is too stoned to stand up? Sounds that way.)
Confusingly, my friend was quoted a “suggested donation” of $20/gm., which sounds remarkably high. But for $20 he was handed a plastic vial marked “U2 Kush” and “Qty. 1/8 oz.” Since an eighth of an ounce is about 3.5 grams, that’s actually a fairly low price for sinsemilla, and the “free” additional 1/8 oz. (of “OG Kush”) made the package a remarkable bargain (<$3/gm.) assuming that the product and weight were as described. But of course the price of the “recommendation” meant that, for small quantities, the street market would have been much cheaper.
My friend’s comments: “How do they stay in business at that price?” and “Why don’t they just legalize pot and stop this ridiculous pretense”?
I’ve heard medical-marijuana advocates argue that Los Angeles has an especially out-of-control dispensary system, and that behavior in the rest of the state is less outrageous; at least one store, in Oakland, reportedly provides quantitative information about the chemical content of its products. But I have no reason to think that the doctor’s behavior was atypical.