Why the Time to Get High in L.A. Is Now
|Illustration by PJ McQuade|
There needs to be something wrong with me. That's the only way you can buy pot legally, even in Venice Beach.
And so I sit in the doctor's office and ponder the form I've been told to fill out: What am I suffering from?
"Anxiety," I write. "And hemorrhoids."
I didn't need an appointment to visit the Green Doctors, a shabby, open-air storefront "clinic" that has been operating right off the beach since 2005. Nor was there much of a wait once I completed the paperwork. Once inside the medical man's office -- no door handle, particleboard desk -- Dr. Lieberman, an older guy with a thick gray mustache, listens to my heart and lungs and glances at his clipboard. "Hemorrhoids?" he asks thoughtfully. "Does smoking marijuana help with that?"
He's the doctor. Shouldn't he be the authority? But I play along, as if I know. Indeed it does, I assure him.
Thanks to a combination of contradictory factors -- the L.A. City Council's attempted dispensary ban, its reversal last week in the wake of a citizen referendum, a series of raids by the federal government, state law be damned -- Los Angeles is in pot purgatory. The result is an elaborate pas de deux between doctors and patients. In some ways, buying pot these days is akin to filling your prescription for Prevacid. In others, it still feels criminal, as my buddy Keith and I discover on a Saturday morning when we set out to explore the state of the scene.
For starters, like most drug deals, it's a rip-off. The boardwalk barker dressed in green scrubs promised to help me "get legal" for $40, but it turns out that's just for the evaluation. The certificate (which looks like something you'd get in junior high for perfect attendance) entitling me to buy medical marijuana is $80 more. Even worse, at this price point I'm only "legal" for three months. If I want my certificate to be valid for longer, I need to fork over more cash -- a six-month prescription costs more.
Also semi-shady: Many of Green Doctors' clients seem to be tourists, and, in at least one case I witness, the receptionist instructs them to use their hotel's address as their own.
My appointment with Dr. Lieberman lasts about 10 minutes, with only a few, perfunctory-feeling questions about my health. After walking to the clinic's nearby other branch to get my certificate processed -- we catch a few scenes from Back to School in the waiting room -- Keith and I head to the Nile Collective on Pacific Avenue to buy some pot.
The place is identified by its sea-green, concrete exterior, one of those ubiquitous green-cross symbols and a sign warning of a guard dog. It's all kinda Fort Knox: Allowed past locked gates, we show our certificates and our IDs, and fill out yet more paperwork before being buzzed into the room with the goodies.
Maybe a couple dozen strains are on offer, each distinguished as sativa (more of an energizing high, we're told) or indica, which can put you to sleep. Our proprietress -- an older, earthy type named Jill -- recommends sativas called Blue Dream and Sour Diesel, as well as a Rice Krispie treat made with Fruity Pebbles. (Seriously? What self-respecting, health-conscious Angeleno poisons his body with hydrogenated oils?)
The grams sell for about $20 each. But smoking here is out of the question; the barker tells us we must be 1,000 feet from parks, businesses, churches and schools. So we inhale our Blue Dream in a nearby, Dumpster-lined alley. Though we've gone to great lengths to be legal, we're suddenly a pair of paranoid ninth graders. Again, we've surely paid too much: We're probably supposed to be tasting hints of boysenberry and coriander, but all I can smell is garbage.
Quite high after only a few tokes, we meet up with a colleague at a boardwalk spot called Schulzie's to get bread pudding -- aka stoner's delight. She's kind enough to be our sober driver; after all, the Green Doctors recommend not being high behind the wheel.
She pilots us to the Palms dispensary that's probably the most famous in L.A. -- K.F.C., which is indeed a former Kentucky Fried Chicken but now awkwardly dubbed "Kind For Cures." While the Nile Collective's pleather couches and glass coffee table were reminiscent of an urban loft, Kind For Cures feels more like a dorm, with Visine for sale, a poster admonishing Obama for cracking down on dispensaries and even one of those claw games where you try to snag a toy. At the front counter, they still have that refrigerated display case where the real KFC used to keep the coleslaw. And no, they do not take credit cards.
The girl behind the counter seems unconcerned with the various attempts to shut her employer down. "Our lawyer is suing the city," she explains. Tell that to the feds.
Since I'm intimidated by the "double-strength" brownies on offer, she directs me to the "chronic caramels," which are four for $6 and said to be mild. Keith picks up a half-dozen "Stoney Rancher"-brand lollipops, in the colors of the rainbow.
We stagger out into the sunlight and discuss our grand ambitions for the day. We had tentative plans to hit another dispensary or two, but after I pop a caramel and we polish off some IPAs, things begin to unravel, as best-laid stoner plans tend to do. It takes us an unreasonable amount of time to find our car, and then, since Keith's going downtown, there's a protracted smartphone search for the nearest Metro stop. (Googling "subway" keeps turning up sandwich stores.)
We finally say goodbye around 2 p.m.: no lunch, no additional dispensaries. Some things are different in L.A. in these days of state-sanctioned medical marijuana -- as we hold our breath dodging both feds and the City Council. But when it comes to being stoned, some things will never change.
Additional reporting by Keith Plocek@brwestho, and for more arts news follow us at @LAWeeklyArts and like us on Facebook.