Last week, the Vancouver Police Department raided a local pot shop for allegedly selling to teenagers. As Vv Magazine’s Alexandra Gill discovered, scoring a medical marijuana membership card in Canada’s most herb-friendly city isn’t as easy as it sounds – but it’s not that hard, either.
Vancouver was the first Canadian city to regulate marijuana dispensaries. They’re not legal, but they might as well be given that they already outnumber Starbucks (98:91).
I don’t smoke a lot, but I like to have it on hand when friends come over. It’s not unlike a well-stocked bar — everyone needs a few strains of Indica and Sativa in their freezer.
I know an old-fashioned dealer, but she lives all the way over on the other side of town. Marc Emery’s Cannabis Culture, on the other hand, recently opened a headshop and vapor lounge right around the corner. The shop is partnered with Eden Medicinal Society, Canada’s first certified dispensary. I am determined to become a member.
I visit on a weekday afternoon, somehow thinking I’ll appear more professional and serious about my “medical” need for pot. Ha. Do you know who visits a vapor lounge on a weekday afternoon? Guys who inhale something through an inflatable plastic bag and say to their friend, “Whoa, this tastes like peanut butter.”
The second-floor lounge looks a coffee shop with sofa seating along one side and a long bar running down the other. A menu lists various types of vaporizer rentals. At the back of the room, there is a small desk beside a door with a dark curtain drawn across it. That’s the dispensary.
“I’d like to get a pot prescription,” I say to the young gentleman behind the desk.
“You mean a membership card,” he corrects me.
“Uh, yeah. Sure.”
“What are you doing Thursday at 7 p.m.?”
“Two days from now?”
“You’re lucky there was a cancellation,” he says, taking my $10 deposit. “The usual wait time is two weeks.”
Two days later, I arrive at a different Eden clinic, in the Downtown Eastside. The waiting room looks like a rundown doctor’s office from the seventies, with a low ceiling, scratched linoleum floors, and dying spider plants. There are two stressed out receptionists behind the front desk and four other patients – an older Italian couple, a skinny young man with multiple tattoos, and a middle-aged man with a bad sunburn who looks like a construction worker.
One by one, they are escorted to an unmarked door down a corridor behind the desk. They return, have their photos taken for a membership and are then escorted to a different door in the back. They leave clutching little brown bags, presumably filled with pot. About 40 minutes later, it’s my turn. The receptionist leads me to the doctor’s office.
“Have a seat,” she says, pointing to a hard wooden chair facing a desk. The room is empty. Where’s the naturopath?
I sit down. Oh, there he is — on the tablet screen. Strange. This is not what I expected.
“What can I do for you?” the doctor asks. I can’t help laughing.
We talk for about 20 minutes. He is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I give him a song and dance about suffering from insomnia and occasional anxiety. I have a low-dose prescription for Lorazepam that I take about once a week to fall asleep, but would like to try something more natural. This is all true.
“How is your appetite? Do you eat well?”
“Yes, I’m a restaurant critic. I eat a lot.” He laughs. Bonus.
He asks more questions: “Do you have regular bowel movements? How is it shaped? (Ew.) Have you noticed any change in your urine colour? Any headaches? Have you used marijuana in the past? How often? Were you smoking, vaporizing, eating? Have you tried any holistic medicine to get some help? For how long have you had this sleeping problem? Do you feel more warm or cold in general?”
“Lately? Uh, warm. It’s really hot here in Vancouver.” (I can’t get over the feeling that he’s not actually in Vancouver.)
“No, in general,” he says. “Are you the type of person who puts more clothes on or takes them off?”
“Well, that depends on the company,” I reply. “No, in all seriousness, I’m a cold person.”
“Do you also have cold hands and cold feet?” Yes.
“May I see your tongue?” he asks. My tongue? Then, Do you have any questions for me?
“Are you in Quebec?” I ask. (He has a French accent and Eden has a dispensary in Montreal.)
He assures me he’s not. I want to why know he does virtual appointments, but am afraid to ask too many questions. Let’s stick to pot.
We talk about different strains. He recommends a prescription with more THC than CDC. He cautions me about the harmful effects of mixing Lorazepam with marijuana and leaves me with a final warning: “This does not solve your problem. The root of the problem is still there. Why do you have problems falling asleep and how can you solve the problem. You think cannabis is more clean and natural. And you can live the rest of your life popping the pills or smoking the cannabis, but the problem won’t be resolved.”
Yes, sir. Understood.
That’s all. He dismisses me. I guess I got the prescription – or the membership. I’m still not sure how this works. I return to the waiting room. The receptionist takes my photo and asks me to fill out a form. She returns my $10 deposit and gives me my card, explaining that I can use it at any of Eden’s five Vancouver dispensaries.
Can I use it here? Now?
“Sure, you’re good to go back,” she says, pointing to the second door. “Tell them it’s your first time.”
The door buzzes open. Oh, it looks like a candy shop. There are two clerks behind the glass counters, which are filled with dozens of canisters of dried weed. It smells dank and musty. “Welcome!” they trill. The mood is much less somber back here. One leads me through a dizzying tour of the merchandise. There are so many strains, so many weird names. “This is Death Bubba,” she says, pulling out a canister.” It will help you fall asleep. Or you could try CB Afghani.”
“Are there any types that won’t make me stoned?”
She cocks her head and looks at me quizzically. I don’t think she gets that question very often. She shows me some capsules, explaining how it’s extracted from plant matter, like shatter, but doesn’t contain any psychoactives. “It’s more like a muscle relaxant. And the capsules are nice and discreet. A lot of people take them on planes – not that I recommend that.”
She pulls out another brand. “This is CBD René. If you’re a writer, you should get this because Sativa really brings out your creative side,” she adds with a wink. “Normally, wouldn’t recommend Sativa if you have anxiety. But the CBD will counteract it. This would be a good daytime smoke.” She rings me up: Two capsules, $4; two grams of dried cannabis, enough for two big joints, $10. Cash only.
Bottles or bags? Bottles.
She writes the names on the label so I don’t get mixed up, but I can’t even remember which is for which.
Later that night, I roll the Death Bubba, take a few hauls and pass out like a baby.
The next day, I try a capsule. Forty-five minutes later, I pass out and sleep for 10 hours. WTF? This is not a good daytime smoke or in any way convenient. Maybe I should stick to conventional medicine.
Would you try to get a medical marijuana membership? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.