PART 1 – EVERYBODY MUST GET STONED

Like most senior citizens, I have one or two conditions that would qualify me for a medical marijuana card. So, when a dispensary opened in a nearby town there was no reason not to give it a try.

The dispensary steered me to a physician whose office was in a fairly respectable strip mall. It wasn’t a shopping area refined enough to offer a Starbucks, but then again, it wasn’t anchored by a store that offered to Buy Gold for Cash and an attorney whose motto was Just because you did it doesn’t make you guilty. I took this to be a good sign.

The doctor was an amiable sort who put me in mind of Michael Moore, but without Michael’s high fashion sense. He sat, along with his assistant, behind a counter and welcomed me in. This one room seemed to be all there was to the office. The assistant had the fashion sense and hairstyle of Edith Head. She gave me a clipboard with a trio of one-page forms attached: three or four boxes to be checked and blanks for name and date to be filled in. I’d printed out a page or two from my online VA medical records and brought them with me. The assistant checked these over, collated them with the forms and put them in an envelope while I chatted with the doctor.

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Doc and I talked about how dry the weather had been. “Better dry than wet as far as arthritis is concerned,” he said. It was clear by the way he massaged the back of his knuckles that he was talking about his arthritis, not mine. No questions of a medical nature were asked of me.

Our chat was interrupted by the woman handing me the assembled envelope. “Enclose a check or money order for $50, write your return address on the envelope, and drop it in the mail,” she said. “The stamp is already attached. You should get your card in a week or two.” She tapped out a short rhythm on her smart phone, presented me with a total, minus my veteran discount, and ran my Visa through the portable card reader.

While waiting for my card to arrive I visited my neighborhood pot paraphernalia and vape shop. I was out of rolling papers, and had been out for the better part of 50 years. I also needed to get one of those cute little joint rollers. Cheech & Chong would look badly upon me for not rolling my own, but arthritis is one of the ailments that enabled me to get the weed card in the first place. The rolling papers were made from hemp and the roller was made from hemp plastic. In fact, hemp seemed to be the dominant theme in this store, with wonders that cannot be described but must be viewed with one’s own eye.

The state Medical Marijuana ID card came as promptly as advertised and I was ready to visit the dispensary. This enterprise occupied a fairly respectable metal building in an out-of-the-way commercial area given over, for the most part, to storage unit rental. I was met at the door by a guard with a pistol holstered to his waist. Despite the armament he was quite cordial and, after glancing at my card, welcomed me in.

For some reason I was expecting a variation of DMV decor, but the waiting room was every bit as nice as the one at your veterinarian’s office. I filled out a one-page form, handed it in, and sat down to peruse the menu. There were 35 or 40 options with names like White Widow, Holy Roller, Gorilla Glue, AK47 and Dark Star. Edibles in the form of gummies and vaping oils were also available.

The people who came and went were mostly folks over 50. Two had walkers while one was in a wheelchair. I’d expected to be sitting in a room full of stoners, but the only one that fit that description was a guy wearing a Grateful Dead T-shirt. He looked old. Older than Garcia. Old enough to have come over to the Dead from the Warlocks. Even money he would be picking up a bale of Dark Star.

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My time came and I was buzzed through a blast door into a white, sterile room with a curved counter around three walls. White Rabbit was piped through the sound system while ceiling-mount cameras watched my every move. Young technicians manned half a dozen stations behind the counter. They were neatly groomed, dressed in shirts, ties and long white lab coats. Throw a stethoscope around their necks and they could have played soap opera doctors. The only thing that looked a bit out of place for a medical facility was the rack of souvenir T-shirts. I might pass the idea along to my proctologist.

One of the young techs waved me over. Through the glass of the counter I could see dozens of mayonnaise jars filled with buds. Each jar was clearly labeled: Super Skunk, Purple Badlands, Queen Mother. My consultant inquired about my maladies and made several recommendations. He offered to let me sniff the Queen Mother. I declined.

After a while a selection was selected and tonged into a prescription bottle with my name on the label. The bottle sat on a futuristic-looking scale. The tech took my card into the back room and laminated it for me at no charge. He rang me up, minus my veteran discount. It was, of course, a cash deal. He was so accommodating I slipped a couple of bucks into his tip jar. The introduction of the tip jar was another idea I would surely be mentioning to my proctologist.

In conclusion, it was a most pleasant experience. Everybody I met along the way, from the doctor to the guard with the Glock to the ganja gurus behind the counter, proved to be helpful and cordial. Perhaps we need to go beyond legalizing pot. It might not be a bad idea to make it mandatory.

PART 2 – THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

Unlike most every other medicine, medical marijuana does not come with much in the line of instruction: no suggested dosage or even a recommended delivery method. Absent also was one of those inserts that listed, in painfully small print, all the things that can go wrong if you take this medicine: CAUTION: Reefer may cause you to over-indulge in sweet or salty snacks which are, for the most part, empty calories. May cause you to drive really slow, even on the interstate, or forget where you parked your car entirely. May foster both good and bad ideas, but impair your ability to tell one from the other. Individual results may vary.

I tried smoking, but found it to be harsher than I remembered. It should be pointed out that this was not my first rodeo. I was in the U.S. Army back in the 1960s. Getting stoned was almost part of the job description. I’d been cautioned that these newer strains of marijuana were far stronger, which may have accounted for the harshness.

With smoking out of the running and vaping a non-starter, that left only eating the stuff as a viable option. I went for brownies. If it was good enough for Alice B. Toklas, it should be good enough for me. A quick scan of the internet showed 3-5 million recipes to choose from. None of them recommended dumping a box of Duncan Hines into a bowl and throwing in a small handful of dope. That quashed my original plan. Almost all the recipes recommended using weed butter.

Weed butter is easy to make if you have a crockpot. Put the weed, a stick of butter, and a cup of water into the pot, set it on medium and leave it for about 8 hours. Strain the hot mixture through cheesecloth and put it in the refrigerator to chill. Weed butter will solidify on top of the water and can be lifted off. Now it’s time to throw the Duncan Hines on a bowl. Just use weed butter in place of the oil or conventional butter called for on the back of the box. NOTE: Fortunately I’d gotten the one called Gelato and passed on the Queen Mother. Reduced weed butter is very pungent. This explained the propensity to uses brownies as the delivery system and not lemon bars.

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FAST FORWARD. The buzzer went off and the pan of brownies came out of the oven. The chocolate mass was domed and splitting with richness. The pungent aroma, while diminished, still remained. It was reminiscent of the underside of your lawnmower on a damp day, provided, of course, you own a dog.

When the pan cooled I sliced it into portions of 1½ inches square. The recipe said some experimentation will be needed to determine proper dosage. Individual results may vary seemed to be a theme. Perhaps it should have said DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. I ate half a brownie and removed the rest to Tupperware.

Desolation Row was playing in the background while I cleaned up the kitchen. My attention wasn’t focused, as it usually was, on the many portraits Dylan paints with his lyrics. Instead, my mind wandered off, following the thread of lilting guitar that Charlie McCoy wove through the fabric of the song. I noticed how the water was reacting to the film of butter covering the bottom of the Pyrex baking dish that now lay in the sink. Oil and water don’t mix, but here was the soap acting as a catalyst right before my eyes. Whoa. My attention was diverted by a leaf falling slowly from the maple tree outside my kitchen window. Whoa.

Next my focus riveted on a figure stamped into an older dollar coin, one of several in a bowl on the windowsill. I didn’t recall Mrs. Doubtfire ever being on the dollar coin, but it was certainly her. Did the government do a series of coins commemorating female impersonators? Tootsie, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis from “Some Like it Hot,” Lassie? I picked up the coin and read it. Susan B. Anthony. Double whoa.

The grass was kicking in already. Could that really be? Unlike smoked marijuana, which takes effect almost at once, eaten weed takes 30-40 minutes to take hold. It had only been five minutes tops since ingesting the brownie half. Still, there was no doubt about it: I was already on the bus. In a burst of inspiration, I’d added chopped nuts to the batter, but they couldn’t have been the cause. Suddenly it struck me: The batter, that was it. I’d licked the beaters, scraped up the generous amount of batter left in the bowl and licked the spoon clean. I was nearing full cannabis capacity before the pan even came out of the oven. Now, with half a brownie coming down the pipe, things were about to amp up and there was no turning back. THEY SHOULD PUT A WARNING LABEL ON THIS STUFF.

Fortunately, while my classmates were reading Thoreau, Henry D., I was reading Thompson, Hunter S. According to the Hunter doctrine, I’d bought the ticket and there was nothing to be done for it. I would just have to lean back and take the ride.