How to Choose and Use Medical Marijuana

medical marijuana…But to live outside the law
You must be honest.
Bob Dylan – Absolutely Sweet Marie

Here’s my problem: Medical marijuana is legal in California where I live. Recreational marijuana is not. But Marijuana doesn’t know the difference. She has a naughty habit of crossing the line. Refusing to stop at pain relief, she slyly transports you to the fun zone.

And once you’re in the fun zone you’ve crossed the line.

Ever since I got legal, I’ve been trying to do a serious scientific study of medical marijuana from a patient’s point of view. But I’ve just about unhinged myself trying to keep a straight face about the whole thing. The truth is, marijuana isn’t just medicine; it’s also serious fun!

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s get back to the business of using marijuana for medicinal purposes only. I don’t need the wind and rain to tell me it’s autumn. My flaming knuckles have been predicting this weather for weeks; arms aching to the bone; thumbs and fingertips scalding. But let us not lapse into negativity. And let us also not wander into the fun zone. After all, that would be a crime.

I don’t plan to make a career out of describing my pain. But since my plan is to experience as many different strains of medical marijuana as possible, in search of the perfect cure for arthritis and depression, I need to at least set the baseline. The arthritis pain is relatively new. It comes with age. I’ll be 66 in November. The depression has been with me as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve a little thing we like to call “suicidal ideation.” Those thoughts remain a constant companion – more like a neurotic friend with a morbid sense of humor than an actual threat, so don’t get all suicide hotline on me, OK?

Besides, we are not here to dwell on the negative. We are on a mission. A healing mission.

What To look for at the Medical Marijuana Dispensary

medical marijuana dispensaryHere’s the drill: I go to a dispensary and tell the caregiver what I’m looking for. I try to be consistent, although I use depression and writer’s block interchangeably. To me, they’re the same. One causes the other and each makes the other worse. And I’m not going back on anti-depressants. So, I need a pain-killer that won’t put me to sleep or dull my senses the way Vicodin does. I need something uplifting and inspiring. I need creative energy. I need pain-killing, high-energy, creative inspiration.

That’s a lot to ask a little bud.

Invariably my caregiver will recommend a Sativa or hybrid, meaning a combination of Sativa and Indica, in varying degrees. Say 70/30 Sativa/Indica. We can go into greater detail later, but for now let’s just say that Sativa is considered cerebral, while Indica has a physical effect. Or, to risk crossing the thin green line into the fun zone, Sativa is a “head high” while Indica is a “body high.”

After the strains, we get into brand names. Blue Dream. Blackberry Kush. Dragon. Endless Sky. Purple Haze. Skywalker. Jack Herer. A literally mind-blowing array of choices.  This is where it gets to be a challenge. You’re looking at a list of about forty different designer plants, each carefully grown somewhere by someone who cares very deeply about the effect that plant will have on you, the patient.

The care doesn’t stop there. When I refer to caregivers, I’m not tossing the word around lightly. Every bud-tender, “herbalogist,” or caregiver I have encountered has given me fully-focused personal attention. And compassion. This is another term that gets bandied about. But to a person suffering from depression, a moment of understanding; a few words and fearless eye contact that says, “I get it. I’ve been there,” can be the first step toward healing. It doesn’t take long. It doesn’t have to. But it could be a life-saver. You never know. All I know is that compassion is one of my criteria, when it comes to the dispensary experience itself.

Then there’s the medicine. As my best friend, my doctor, says,Medically, it’s about how does it feel and how does it function. We’ll make that the bottom line.

So there you are, staring at about forty glass jars filled with happy little green buds. Your caregiver opens one after another for you to lean over and breathe in the variegated and subtle scents of each kind. Some fruity, others pungent and dank, all smelling deeply, gorgeously of Nature. Even without smoking them, the buds give off an exciting energy. It’s the energy of life. And when there are live plants growing in the room, that energy is even higher.

medical marijuanaDecision time. Indoor and outdoor grown are also factors. After a while the names and scents and images of so many different kinds of cannabis all run together and my mind is abuzz. I’m definitely over-stimulated and giddy, but I’ve narrowed my selection down to three. At this point I go with my caregiver’s recommendation.

The next day, after my morning coffee has begun to cut through the fog of pain, I pinch a small amount, about the size of a TicTac, off a bud and crumble it into a small, clean glass pipe.  I jot down the date, time, dispensary name and the brand name of the cannabis, and take one puff. Maybe two. The next time I look up I may be three pages into my journal. Somewhere along the line, I’ve forgotten my pain.

The notes will help me remember the strain and the effects it had on me next time I visit the dispensary (remember I said I am 66 years old). After all, this is a healing mission.



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