Investigating Medical Marijuana Part II

If you live in the U.S., you have probably heard about the medical marijuana laws that have been passing in states like California. We are always keeping our finger on the pulse of substance abuse and we want to know what these new laws will mean to our society. This is part 2 in our series about Medical Marijuana in the OC.

I pulled up to Jack’s apartment in Costa Mesa around 10:00am on a Saturday. He answered the door very quick and I could tell he was excited. The prospect of getting a card that made his marijuana habit legal was something he told me he never thought would happen, and I practically had to force him to sit down and answer a few questions before we left.
Getting a Medical Marijuana Prescription in the OC

I was curious as to how he was able to find a doctor that would give him a prescription and he sat down at his computer and showed me. With a simple Google search, he was able to bring up a map of the local area, and it showed all the doctors specializing in prescriptions, dispensaries and even had reviews. I was shocked by the amount of spots on the map, and even more shocked when he ran the search at my house. There was a medical marijuana dispensary a stone’s throw from my house, and I never knew!

Anyway, Jack showed me how he had picked his doctor based on good reviews, and a discounted price ($69 normally, but $59 with a mention of the website). He had already called the doctor’s office and they said no appointment was necessary, that he could just walk in.

We pulled into a non-descript two story office building across the street from a large medical center in Santa Ana. The building seemed to be filled with small doctor’s offices, dentists, law offices etc. There was nothing from the outside to denote that the doctor we were seeing was anything other than a regular doctor’s office, except for two young, scruffy looking guys standing outside looking confused. When we entered, I heard one of them say, “Oh, this must be the place,” and follow us in.

The waiting room looked like any other doctor’s waiting room I’ve ever seen, except it was very crowded and filled with men ranging in age from 20-40. We were greeted by a young receptionist who took Jack’s name and driver’s license. She told us to have a seat while he filled out the paperwork.

The paperwork was not the normal doctor’s office initial paperwork you get. There weren’t any insurance forms to fill out and it was definitely structured around marijuana. The form asked specifically if you suffer from any of the following: insomnia, anxiety, migraines, pain or depression. There was also a spot to add any other condition. Jack marked that he had insomnia and migraines. He said he thought about just marking insomnia, but was worried that if he was caught driving after smoking that having a prescription wouldn’t be a good excuse if the prescription was supposed to put him to sleep. I wasn’t sure if I followed his logic, but one of the other patients overheard him and said that was a good idea and that he was going to change his form.

The forms also stressed that the doctor wasn’t actually giving a prescription, but a “recommendation” that marijuana may help alleviate symptoms.

I asked Jack if he really did have migraines and insomnia, and he said that he used to really have migraines at least a couple times a month and has always struggled to fall asleep. Jack said he was constantly taking ibuprofen and tried several over-the-counter sleep aids and was even prescribed Ambien. He told me a story about waking up after taking Ambien and stumbling into his bedroom window, shattering it. “No more Ambien for me!” He said he started smoking pot recreationally in college and realized after few months that his Advil bottle was still full. “I hadn’t had a migraine in months!” At the time he didn’t realize there may be a connection, but when he quit smoking for a few months because of a job where they drug tested, he noticed his migraines started occurring and his insomnia was coming back.

I wanted to question him further, but the receptionist called Jack to the examination room.

I asked if I could go with him and she said okay. She weighed him on a scale and ushered us into an exam room. I realized I was still wary of the whole thing when I was shocked that the room looked very much like an exam room should. It had an exam table, a diagram of the body, rubber gloves and one of those glass jars filled with cotton swabs. After a couple of minutes the doctor came in with Jack’s chart. He introduced himself and after taking Jack’s blood pressure and listening on his stethoscope, he began asking about Jack’s pre-existing conditions and allergies. He then asked Jack about his migraines and insomnia. Jack told him basically the same story he had told me in the waiting room. The doctor said “uh huh” throughout and kept his head down, jotting notes in his file. The doctor then went through a list of potential side effects of marijuana including paranoia, marijuana addiction, and possible lung damage. He said it very quickly and in a way that reminded me of a security person at an airport asking you if you have any potential dangerous items in your pockets or bags; in other words, like he said it a lot.

And that was it. After about five minutes of face time with the doctor, he shook both our hands and we walked up to the counter where they handed Jack two letters certifying that he had been recommended to take marijuana, by a physician, to treat a medical condition. She said the total was $69, so he said it was $10 off if he mentioned the website, and the woman behind the counter told him it was $59 for the first letter and $10 more for the second, so that he could have a backup copy in case he lost the first. Much like the doctor, she acted like she had given this speech a million times. I could tell Jack wanted to argue with her, but like most people probably do, he just said, “fine, whatever,” and paid the $69. She then handed him a stack of business cards with marijuana leafs on them and said if he referred five other patients he’d get his renewal for free.

As we left the office, that was now so full people they were forced to stand, I asked Jack if the last minute salesmanship soured him at all to the process. With a huge smile on his face, he looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Yeah, right! Let’s go get some legal weed!”

Stay tuned for the third part in this series where I go with Jack to a few dispensaries to purchase medical marijuana.