My journey with cannabis, or pot, as we called it, began in 1973, when I was a freshman at our local community college, the College of the Sequoias. Growing up in the San Joaquin Valley was, in many ways, similar to growing up in the Midwest. Rock-rib conservative, Christian, and, like so many Midwest towns, small and familiar. Not much visible distinction. I bring that side of my history up as a segue to growing up gay in a small rural town. Yes, there were gay bars in the San Joaquin Valley, usually on some back road, and mysteriously burning down at some point.
I was fortunate to find gay friends at college, and we socialized at their apartments and houses. Too young to drink, we always knew someone, who knew someone, who could connect us with a “lid” of pot. I have no idea the quantity of a lid, but it was usually around $10, and looked like the stuffing in an old chair, full of woody stems, seeds, and debris of undetermined origin.
Sit down cross-legged on the chocolate brown shag carpeting, someone would take the role of “cleaner.” It took a box top from a pair of shoes, the top flap of a Zig-Zag dispenser, a pair of scissors, and incredible patience, to sift the pot up and down in the box top, getting the good stuff to the bottom, pulling out stems, cutting off stems, separating seeds. It was quite a ritual, and one we all seemed to enjoy.
Next step, roll a joint…a feat I could never perfect…light it, pass it around, and smoke it up until it burned your fingertips.
Frankly, too much process for me. I knew places at 17 where I could get alcohol. Pot got sidelined for many years, while I journeyed through alcohol consumption. Out of Tulare, I dropped into the Land of Oz, San Francisco, to complete my BS at San Francisco State. Alcohol and other drugs of the 70’s, were just a part of living in San Francisco. Still avoided pot.
Fast forward to 1994, when I was diagnosed with HIV, 25 years ago last month. At that moment in time, the early medications were the only attempt at living. I started on those and started that decline that was all too familiar. But, fortunately, within a year, protease inhibitors were introduced, changing the ballgame for my HIV community. That, and the testing protocol of human growth hormone, stimulated my body back to living, surviving, and improving. Fantastic! However, every manufactured drug has side effects. The early regimens had ghastly side effects that were life changing…but we were still alive! The long lasting side effects for me in my 25 years on HIV therapy have been peripheral neuropathy, constant nausea, migraine headaches, increased blood pressure, general muscle fatigue, and, ultimately, depression. Doctors are ready to treat each of these. The answer is usually an opioid. When combined with anti-depressants, I was in a constant “gray” state all the time. Not engaged with the world. Ignoring friends. Feeling defeated.
When medical marijuana was approved in 1996, I very soon acquired a recommendation, from a doctor with a discount coupon in the back of LA Weekly. I began to drastically cut down on, and finally quit, the opioid medications, and even cold-turkeyed the anti-depressants. The withdrawals from both anti-depressants and opioids is not pleasant, and lasts for a long time, while your body adjusts. Since I don’t like to smoke pot (makes me cough when I laugh, and I love to laugh), I was thrilled at the product lines, and was able to buy consumables such as cookies, lemonade, gummie bears, and mints. I learned about the “volcano vaporizer, “where you put the cannabis leaf into a small filter, a heater warms up a fan and blows hot air through the filter, allowing me to ingest cannabis vapor, not smoke. I gave that to myself as a birthday gift in 2006. HIV medication side effects are well under control.
As a 39-year resident of West Hollywood, I feel blessed that my city is on the cutting edge of innovation and nurturing new industries. When the medical cannabis sales were approved, West Hollywood created a program allowing for a maximum of four dispensaries in the city. I have patronized each one. Often for first time patients, there was a gift with purchase. Neat! I gravitated to The Farmacy, since it was completely open, with big windows out to Santa Monica Boulevard, proudly displaying the wares and demand (customers inside). Now, this space is MedMen, with a high-tech presence and plenty of helpful staff. I have gotten to know the owners of all the historic cannabis dispensaries. They were visionaries who helped the City of West Hollywood’s success in their virtually problem free operations. Pioneers in any industry are nurtured, admired, and treated with respect. These West Hollywood business pioneers have become valued members of the community with their support for so many of West Hollywood’s programs that serve the residents.
In my many years here in our own WeHo paradise, I’ve served on the Public Facilities Board, the Planning Commission, and as president of the WeHo Chamber. As a public affairs consultant for the past 30+ years, I was thrilled to have MedMen contact me to advise on WeHo community outreach. It has been so rewarding to create a relationship between MedMen and all of the West Hollywood community. I must say, they called the right person, one who is a customer and a believer in the benefits of cannabis to my overall well-being.
It is my hope that the City of West Hollywood recognizes the arduous task of starting the first medical cannabis businesses in West Hollywood. They have paved the way for the recently approved expanded license program. All four, AAHS, Zen Healing, MedMen, and Patients and Caregivers Group should be allowed to stay in business here in their hometown. There is enough demand that all of the recent license recipients, and the longtime four operators, will survive and thrive.
Legalize the four WeHo hometown cannabis businesses.