My friend’s 81-year old Jewish mother, Betty White with sugar on top, was looking to score some weed. And I was along for the ride.
Her son called me with the news. “She’s going to try medical marijuana.” Cortisone was not relieving the pain that lingered long after her ankle surgery. What’s the point of living at a “premier Del Webb active retirement community” if you can’t be active?
“Want to come with us? Dad’s taking her to get her card next week.”
“Where’s the clinic?”
“Off Fourth Avenue.”
In all her years the only weed she ever saw up close was the kind you nail with Roundup. My friend and I, grown men in our late 50s, slid into the backseat of their practical sedan, like a pair of 12-year-olds going to the movies with mom and dad.
Brats, we teased her. “Reefer Madness.” Baked. Cheech & Chong. She was unsinkable. “What do I have to lose?”
Dad parked the car. Like good Boy Scouts we helped them up the steps and into a green waiting room where I expected to find patients waiting for the bus back to Woodstock. What I found were genuinely afflicted souls waiting for certification. People suffering from seizures, pain, nausea and a list of other maladies that fell within the state’s standards.
The young man behind the desk checked her in.
“Step back outside — walk around the corner — the doctor’s office is a few doors down on your right.”
We ambled around the corner into an alley. “An alley? I’m not here to get an abortion. I just want pot.”
We found ourselves in a second green waiting room. I liked the touch of the Bob Marley album on the corner table. Mom told the certifying doctor she wanted pain relief, she wanted to sleep, and she did not want to get high. The doctor reassured her they could find just the right blend to address her specific problems and she closed the visit by listing the possible side effects of cannabis, including a “stimulated appetite” and the notorious “amotivational syndrome.” No reefer madness for mom, thank you.
Meeting the state’s standards for medical marijuana, Mom paid the doc $350, with $150 going to the state for processing the application. She quickly got her card in the mail. No amotivational syndrome in that office. Like all things weed, it was green.
Step two: Buy the pot.
“Mom’s going to the dispensary Tuesday. Want to meet us there?”
The dispensary was a high-security greenhouse with a front office that felt like a dentist’s clinic. I parked. The air in the parking lot was thick with the aroma of pampered ganja, as fragrant as a Home Depot garden section on the first day of spring.
In the small front office, a nice young man set out an array of samples on his desk.
“We’ve got gummy bears, extract oils, honey sticks and dark chocolate.” And, for you traditionalists, the leaf itself. Mom learned the two main strains are Sativa, good for depression, and Indica, good for pain relief and insomnia. “I can help you select the strain that’s right for your medical needs.”
“I want pain relief. I want to sleep.”
“Do you want to ingest it, bake it, smoke it or use a vapor inhaler?”
“I don’t want to smoke it.” I shook off the image of “The Golden Girls” shopping for roach clip earrings.
I asked our cannabinoid consultant about his enterprise.
“My dad wanted to open a hospice. My mom’s a pharmacist. We thought this would be a good way to help people.”
“How long before Walgreens and CVS are your competition?”
He smiled at the obvious answer that was rolled tightly in our rapidly changing world, a pragmatic present that rendered the irrational past absurd. A past where my parents were denied access to marijuana to ease their suffering when they were both dying from cancer in 1979. And a present where our prisons are packed as tight as smuggler’s crates.
Only card holders like Mom are allowed in the dispensary where the pot is peddled. As she went in I peeked through the open door, expecting to see Mary Jane displayed like granola sold in bulk at Whole Foods. Instead I saw a glass case, a doobie delicatessen. She emerged with the gummy bear-like edibles. Eight-days worth for $32. Health insurance doesn’t cover mom’s hemp.
This week mom told me one tiny nibble of a bear does the trick, affording her relief without impairment. She has already gotten a refill for what our pot pioneer jokingly calls her “stash.” Pop just rolls his eyes and is happy his bride is feeling better.
Her misery has abated but the teasing has gotten worse. Her millennial grandson gave her a suggestion recently. “Watch ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with the sound off. When the lion roars — cue up Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ Grandma, it’s amazing.”