Thursday, March 10, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole

This week, I finally took my OMMP (Oregon Medical Marijuana Patient) card in hand and headed into the local clinic.  I got my card ("Give Me the Straight Dope") back in October, but I've only darkened the door of the local clinic twice and both times they were not open.  (The last time there was a note written with a sharpie:  Closed due to illness back ASAP-- Bob   Hmmm...  And just when did that note go up?  Today?  Yesterday?  Last week?  Hard to know.)

This time I was admitted entrance by a hulking gentleman who stood patiently by the instantly closed and locked door for me to get my card out of my wallet for his inspection.  He was "just helping out" he told me, because Bob is not back yet-- and the fellow doing business behind the counter, Bob's friend, is just helping out as well.

The place smells like weed (what do you expect?) but is clean and blandly professional.  It has two counters forming a L-shape with glass shelves reminiscent of the set-up at a Starbuck's.  One side houses all the tinctures, oils, butters, salves, lotions, sugars, "bubblegum" (don't ask, I have no idea) and the other holds about a dozen jars containing small amounts of various strains of dope, with labels like  Blueberry Skunk  and Sour Lavender  to the more ominous sounding AK47 and Wrecked.    The forth wall  displays a large bulletin board covered with photocopies of pertinent legal information-- all in 10-point font.   A  helpful magnifying glass dangles on a string nearby.

Besides myself, the customer who let me in and Bob's friend behind the counter, there are three ladies who obviously came as a group.  If I had to guess I would say it was a mother/daughter/friend combo.  Everyone tells me things might seem a little different as changes have been implemented and Bob is not back yet.  I reply that it is all new to me and ask where I should start.

The mother figure demonstrates how to use the lamp with a built-in magnifying glass.  What am I looking for?   Crystals, she tells me.  And indeed, under the magic light there are tiny dew-like drops on the dried bud.  So what does that mean?  The response is not clear, but I get that crystals are a good thing-- then one of the other ladies says she has not found crystals to be the most important factor.  How come? Well, it is all a matter of what you like.  And how do I know what I would like?  There are different flavors, one of the ladies offers vaguely.  (The names seem to bear this out, but never being much of a smoker of any substance, "taste" in not a big concern to me.) The mother then says that she also likes to feel the bud for dryness.  Why?  Drier stuff burns faster, she says, doesn't last as long.  If it gets too dry, I just put a slice of apple in with it, says another lady.  Or a leaf of lettuce, says the third.

All I know is I do not want something that just knocks me out, puts me to sleep or makes me paranoid.  The door man suggests one he calls "giggle weed"-- although that is not the official name on the jar.   Bob's friend says they are all out of that right now.

There is something about the whole atmosphere that feels  a little Middle-Earth/Hobbit-land to me.  I can hardly explain that sensation even to myself.  There is some slightly slower, kinder, gentler, and, yes, undeniably dopier vibe in this little world.  It is akin to the world outside, yes, but it is different. And there is something definitely earthy, organic or almost mushroomy about it.

Yet there is something familiar here:   I know these people; I recognize their clothes, their vocal mannerisms,  their lack of sustained interest in dental hygiene.  We frequent the same thrift shops, garage sales, and farm stands.  These are not hippies-- hey, I just did a Grief Ritual Workshop at Breitenbush, I am familiar with all your various strains of Oregon hippie, from old-school to the new dreadlocked version.  This is different.

There is a another vibe here that I am familiar with as well-- one I do not usually feel in the thrift store. It is the kind of thing that I suppose might happen if you were a regular at the neighborhood bar-- something I have never been---- but WAIT!  Coffee!  That's it!  The way my fellow coffee fiends line up with politely subdued and shared anxiety and anticipation of that very first sip of the day --   the good stuff!  We all know what we want, and we all know what it is to want it.  We are comrades, brethren, joined by our appreciation for our mutual drug of choice.

But I doubt I would ever find myself next to one of these people in line for a $3 latte.  (Although I do see the occasional better-heeled hippie of the old or young school there...) Is this a class thing?  Is medical marijuana a class issue?  Reading up on it, I am beginning to understand just how many other, more expensive (and dangerous) prescription drugs medical marijuana could conceivably replace.  And this is definitely a kind of DIY crowd, in fact many of them make reference to growing their own at some point in time.

Interesting.  All I can tell you is I gathered all the free material available at the clinic to map this uncharted territory.  Some of it is in a language that is foreign to me.  (And some of it seems crafted by people not wholly familiar with the conventions of the English language...) Like many explorers of new worlds, I cannot take anyone familiar with me.  My OMMP card is the open sesame and it closes the door tight behind me. It is a kind of shadow economy, a murky area of legalities, and a half underground community-- all operating in parallel with the more visible world.  It is a total head-trip-- even before I purchase and test the medicine this brave new world has made legally available for my benefit.

Wish me luck, friends.   I am going in.  I will proceed with caution and you know I will check back in with whatever stories I find down this rabbit hole.

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