Easy pot? You be the judge

Medileaf's General Manager Javier Patterson scans a bag of

The question: Can a person with no medical history and a thin
story of complaint score medical marijuana? The answer: Yes, yes
she can.
Editor’s note: Reporter Natalie Everett agreed to take on the assignment to find out what it took to obtain marijuana from the controversial dispensary that recently opened in Gilroy.

The question: Can a person with no medical history and a thin story of complaint score medical marijuana?

The answer: Yes, yes she can.

I spent about three hours and $200 in my quest to obtain medical marijuana to relax me. I’m really stressed out, you see.

I spent two hours on Friday and about an hour Monday getting a doctor’s note and patronizing two local dispensaries to ease my psychological load. I chose from two varieties that come in dozens of flavors and made two purchases.

Monday, I visited MediLeaf a second time, this time with a doctor’s note. I fill out clipboarded paperwork, including signing my agreement to abide by MediLeaf’s rules, like how you can’t smoke pot on the premises. The lobby TV is on, and I listen to Guy Fieri on the Food Network describe a vegetarian dish he’s making.

My paperwork, including the verification number from my doctor, checks out. “It doesn’t have any meat but it’s still really rich,” Fieri is saying as a burly security guard waves a wand around me to make sure I’m not packing any weapons. I leave my phone in a small black lockbox and am given its key. The security guard gives a passing glance inside my purse as he unlocks a door into the back room.

The well-lit room’s left wall is covered with blown-up pictures of marijuana plants. The room smells potent, and I’m getting a little lightheaded just standing in it. On the back wall is a large white board with a listing of the different marijuana strains they sell on the left, and the “edibles” for sale on the right. A cash register sits on the right side of the counter, and a small sign sets a five-minute limit for customers. That’s for when the place is busy, like on a Saturday, says Joe, a jovial man who’s helping me with my order.

Donning a bright purple button-up shirt under his green apron, Joe stands behind the glass counter in the center of the room, not unlike one you would find at an ice cream or donut shop. But under this glass sat a row of about 20 glass jars, each containing a cluster of foliage, laced with orange and green and dotted with what looks like dew. Joe tells me this is THC, the part that gets you high. Each strain has a name like “Mindbender” and “Grapefruit Diesel.” A gram, enough for about two joints, costs about $20. There are also edibles for sale: a marijuana-laced sugar cookie costs $8.

Joe explains that if you smoke the same strain all the time, your body will get used to it. He recommends mixing it up: an eighth ounce of this, a quarter ounce of that, even if you really like just one of the strains.

“That’s why there’s all these different strains,” he tells me.

Joe talks up the Xtreme butter. There’s no dairy in this butter. A guy makes it out of a Crock-Pot, distilling pure THC from marijuana until it forms a butter, much like how a nut butter would be made. Half an ounce of the pot butter costs just $25. I’m a sucker for a deal, so I go for the pot butter. You can even spread it on toast, Joe tells me. I pay in cash, and Joe puts the small, clear plastic container with its pale green, coagulated contents into a brown paper bag.

I start the trip Friday with a visit to MediLeaf, Gilroy’s new medical marijuana dispensary at 1321-B First St. I walk into the swinging door of the corner strip mall office and enter a lobby area with sage green walls and matching carpet. Several chairs line the walls, and a white board reads, “The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.” Below that underlined sentiment in red is another, more matter-of-fact statement: “We accept credit cards.” I approach the counter and ask the mustached man behind it, Greg, how I could go about using their services. He asks if I have a doctor’s referral. No, I say. He plucks two cards from their holders on the counter, next to a candy dish. One is for MediCann and the other for SF BayTHC (Therapeutic Hemp Care). Then he hands me a list of doctors in California that give referrals. He asks if I have a medical history; I say no. He’s smiling, amused: apparently I don’t look the type to be in on false pretenses. Greg tells me I need to have a medical history that demonstrates I’ve tried to seek traditional help for my ailment.

My ailment? Stress. I’m moving to a new job in a new town this week. My symptoms include trouble breathing and sleeping – both true.

I’m anxious for relief, and want to wrap this up that day. So I go to Milpitas’ SF BayTHC, which takes walk-ins. Dr. Rita Thakur heads up the office, which doubles as a weight-loss center.

I arrive in Thakur’s medical offices at 4 p.m. It’s an average medical office, with a small lobby acting as the waiting room with framed chiropractic charts and other medical information. Two assistants – one in an entirely purple outfit: button-up shirt, vest, pants and shoes; both in business casual – scurry around between three different rooms and the lobby, handing out clipboards with paperwork to patients, taking payments (a visit with Dr. Thakur costs $130) and fielding phone inquiries: “Yes, we’re completely confidential … ” The door to a fourth room was shut.

In the hour I was there about a dozen people filed in and out. All appeared to be under the age of 40. None had visible disabilities. Maybe they’re stressed out like me.

The 10 pages of paperwork took about 10 minutes to fill out and included details of my “cannabis use pattern” and a promise that what I’m saying is true. I sign a page verifying that Thakur is “only rendering an opinion” on the therapeutic value of marijuana.

With the paperwork came a green folder containing a page of information on the physical effects of cannabis and three pages from the California branch of NORML, or the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, that answer frequently asked questions about Proposition 215, commonly known as the Compassionate Use Act. Passed by voters in 1996, the act legalized marijuana for medicinal use to ease symptoms of cancer, glaucoma, pain, muscle spasms, seizures and anxiety. The law was expanded in 2004 with Senate Bill 420, which allows the formation of collectives like Gilroy’s MediLeaf.

More than 37,000 people have been issued cards allowing medical marijuana use, including more than 5,000 this year, according to state data. About 600 of those visit MediLeaf, according to the nonprofit’s account on Twitter, a social networking site.

Twelve other states have legalized medical marijuana, according to NORML. Some, like Oregon, don’t allow its use to treat anxiety.

The paperwork states that I can possess up to half a pound legally, that I should keep the marijuana in the trunk of my car when traveling with it, and that I should keep my medical marijuana certificate handy to combat legal issues. Also in the green folder was the latest issue of “West Coast Leaf,” a newspaper catering to the marijuana-using community.

Amid the flurry of activity, behind the fourth door, was Thakur. Her office was tidy with four framed medical degrees overlooking a desk strewn with papers. Cloths the colors of a sunset draped her shoulders and she sipped from a small beige teacup. Between us on her desk was a mostly filled out certificate, stamped and with my name on it.

I tell Thakur about my anxiety.

“Have you been to your general doctor?” she asks in a slight Indian accent, peering at me as she pulled her long black hair back into a ponytail with a rubber band.

“No.” I tell her that I don’t like pills.

“You have to go to your general doctor. Tell them you’re stressed out and that you don’t like pills,” she says.

It’s over, I think. But then she says:

“I can give you a referral for three months. Go to a general doctor and get diagnosed, then you can come back here and I can give you a referral for a year. But I can only legally refer you for three months without prior medical history.”

As she signed my certificate, I commented on how busy her office seemed. She said there are a lot of people who want certificates, some of them without cause. I asked her how they weed out (pun intended) the phonies. Age and demeanor were two factors, she said.

“If you have something, you’re firm about it. It’s not just, ‘Oh, yeah, I have some back pain.'” Thakur said.

On my way out, Thakur tells me about a breathing exercise that will help calm me down: inhale slowly, pause; exhale even more slowly, pause.

Firstly, I order from Purple Cross Rx, a Hollister collective that delivers to Morgan Hill. They delivered an eighth of an ounce of marijuana for about $50 Monday night. It’s against city code to open a dispensary here without council permission. Purple Cross opened in Hollister without a business license, as did MediLeaf.

MediLeaf is caught up in a legal entanglement with the city now. Opening a dispensary in Morgan Hill would require a zone change that specifically allows such a business, according to City Attorney Danny Wan.

Now I have doctor’s orders, a few joints and pot butter I can spread on toast – all accomplished in less than a day’s work.

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