Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Pot is Out of the Bag




Over the past few days, I’ve spent 8 hours watching Denver City Council meetings on Channel 8 on how to deal with the “wild west” of medical marijuana sales in Denver. It’s a real hoot watching these yahoos laugh and giggle their way nervously toward a new law governing a weed about which they apparently know nothing. Councilman Brown wants to make sure you can’t see “the product” from the street. Councilman Lopez wants to make sure his grandmother doesn’t have to see marijuana leaf signs clustered in a row on Federal Boulevard. Councilman Nevitt repeatedly expresses concern that Council is trying to micromanage a booming business (and get their share in taxes), but is consistently dismissed as Council plunges forward anyway, about to create a nightmare of unenforceable micromanagement.

Wanting to give the reader a first hand look from the street level, I decide to take my chronically pain-ridden body to a pot shop to secure some medication.



But where to start? A friend brought over this slick magazine (collectors item!) with amazing ads (click on the Kush-Colorado picture and you'll be able to page through the magazine). He said the ads had code words in them to let you know how lenient they were going to be with the pain threshold.

Instead I googled “Denver marijuana dispensary” and found one close by at 2028 E. Colfax. A temporary banner on the store front above the glass windows declared Discount Medical Marijuana and looked like the no-frills outlet I was seeking. I was buzzed in at the locked front door. Inside was a waiting area with chairs (and two smiling ladies waiting), a reception desk (with one smiling young man), and a glassed-in cubicle behind.

"Ah", the young man said, "You want the Free Doctor Day* tomorrow at our 10th and Lincoln shop". "Right", says I, figuring that saving the $125 to $400 doctors fee I've heard about would be a good thing. He writes on a pad from the store’s previous occupant (tattoo parlor). Tenth and Lincoln - 303 839-9333. I call from home, and I’m offered appointment times in 5-minute increments. OK, sounds about right to me.

The next day I’m buzzed in at 970 Lincoln. Same set up as the Colfax location. I’m given a clipboard with papers to fill out (5 minutes, during which time I hear a lot of laughing), and then I'm escorted past the wavy glass partition by a smiling man in a white lab coat to the sales area. There is a single glass display case with 15 glass jars filled with various buds, individually wrapped cookies, and small chunks of hash. Prices posted on the bulletin board behind the counter were broken down into 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and 1 oz. quantities and range from $59 per 1/8 to $385 per oz.

I’m second in line to see the doctor. I am armed with my x-rays and MRI film. While standing in line I pay the $90 registration fee. While waiting I talk to other "patients" - a young man with his somewhat nervous mother - "this is just what she needs". Another young man - "I smoke at work with my boss's permission. I work with the public and it makes me feel much more at ease." Then it's my turn. "Next."

Around another glass partition and into the Doctor's "office". Two leather office chairs and a small glass and chrome desk with nothing on it, and a 4-camera surveillance TV. He takes my film and we sit down. He looks over my answers, degenerative disc disease (which everybody over 40 has to some degree). Takes a cursory look at my MRI film by holding it up to the overhead light. Actually has me pull up my shirt and lays hands on my lower back. Next, bend over. Wait, what? Oh, ok, to see my back bend, ok (had me nervous there for a second). He signs my papers. "Next!"

Now I’m back at the counter and it’s time to choose my medicine: Sativa or Indica – there is a difference I'm told. Generally, Sativa lifts you up, while Indica is more for sleep. I choose 1/4 each of Durban Poison (Sativa) and Summit County Sweet Skunk (Indica), pay $269 which includes tax. I ask about growing my own and am told that I’m allowed 6 plants at a time, but only 3 can be flowering at once.

There is not a smoking lounge at this dispensary.

Now I’m on my way home with a small brown paper bag containing two sealed baggies of what I hope is primo pot.

Driving home I can’t help but reflect on this sea change. In 1966 the street price was $100/kilo (2.2 lbs.) for mexican. Eventually, with the creation of the DEA and the cartels, it rose to $100/ounce, and then, in the ‘90s, with the introduction of the primo bud, $100 a quarter ounce. Now the medical price is about the same as street.

Back at home I’m finally ready to take my medicine - O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! The pot is out of the bag.

To be continued...

*I later learn that there is a minor catch with the Free Doctor Day. The temporary permit I'm given is not a copy of my State application which would let me shop at any dispensary. Instead, it is only good at the two locations of Discount Medical Marijuana. I'm told the State will send me my official card in 60 to 90 days, at which time I'll be free to shop anywhere.

(Let us know about your pot-shopping experience in the comments.)

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