So, I moved out to Los Angeles because NYC winter. Also it was time to open an LA office. Looks good in an email signature.

So of course besides changing your address, registering your car, and joining a gym, I had to get a medical marijuana card. Cause you know, LA.

I’m not an avid pot smoker. Sure, I went to college (sure, there were a few plants grown) but I wouldn’t say I smoke on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. Pot makes me cripplingly creative, which might sound great, but its exhausting. That being said, I really just was more interested to see how getting a card worked. It’s 2015, and I have the feeling that I’m living through a pretty significant change in society. The legalization of pot may (or may not be) something my kids ask about as they eat their morning marijuana cereal. “You mean pop pop that pot was… illegal?” Thats right little Gian-Carlo… once pot was illegal.

Q: So, what does it take to get access to buy pot?

A: about 20 minutes.


After doing a paranoid amount of research on the internet, I decided to go to ECMM (the evaluation Center for Medical Marijuana… “A Professional Medical Corporation” … ah America!). Located on Washington Blvd. in Culver City this is a pretty innocuous looking business happily sharing the street with a dry-cleaner and a coffee shop. You walk in and a nice kid behind a desk, who also obviously has a serious affliction that requires (an ample dose of) pot medication, gives you a questionnaire to fill out as you give him your driver’s license (mind you I have a NYS driver’s license… DOES NOT MATTER). The questionnaire is pretty basic; address, any medication you take, and what ails you. In my case, as a filmmaker and editor, I deal with sitting and working at a computer for a long time and holding a camera in weird positions that cause muscle ache. Oh the woes. After an 6 minute wait, a nice tall man with a clipboard walks out and calls “Roberto S.?”. I walk back into the depths of the office.

He is the doctor. 

I walk back to a little exam room. There is an exam table/chair so I hop up on it. The doc goes “oh, no need for that. Come sit down with me at the desk.” … I like this already. He asks me, “so what ails you?”. He actually says the word “ails”. Like an apothecary. I like this. I tell him I’m a filmmaker/editor and have headaches and pain from sitting editing at a desk for a long time. Then we start talking about films, my career and where I live (apparently the South Bay is a secret place to live and I was very lucky). We talk about that for about 3 minutes then he asks “do you use marijuana now to help ease the pain?”


“Ok. Great. Are you familiar about the laws regarding medical marijuana?” he asked… “yes. I am.” I said. I definitely was. Being neurotic also made me a very proficient student. “Great,” he said “just stay away from cops and the DEA basically. Come with me and we’ll get you your card.” – that is exactly what he said. It was the kind of warning said so cool and casually you totally disregarded it, but it ends up haunting you later. Then again, I generally stave away from activities that get me involved with law enforcement so, no prob.

That was it. 11  minutes later I was back at the front desk paying $45 dollars for a certificate stating that this doctor determined that I had one or “more of various ailments that required the medical use of marijuana” to treat said condition.


“You want a card for your wallet? It’s an added $20 bucks?” the kid asked. “What does it do?” I asked. “Not much. You can use the certificate. Some places don’t even take the card.” he said. “Then… no. Thanks.”

The up-sell. America.

That was it. While I was there at least 10 people walked in or was in the waiting room. In 12 minutes I had permission to buy pot. Is this a cash cow? Hard to say Dr. Pasteur… Hard to say. On the wall was about 60 business cards. All dispensaries. The nearest one was around the corner.

Walking into Green Dot on Lincoln was like walking into a day spa. Tastefully decorated, soothing earth tones and potted plants, I was greeted by a nice girl who took my newly laser printed certificate and my ID and put me in the system. “Oh. ECMM. You went to the right place. They’re great.” Yes. Yes Jasmine they are. After a hot minute I was being buzzed into the “safe room” where she tells me “mention you are a first timer and they’ll take care of you.” – all in all things were going smooth.

The safe room feels cool. It’s basically a small box of a room, with an L shaped counter filled with Pot. Two tattooed and cute girls greeted me.

“It’s my first time.” I felt like I was about to have sex with a prostitute for some reason.

“Ok cool. So up here is our menu…” she pointed up at the biggest sign I’ve ever seen. 60 varieties of marijuana, broken into three categories (Setiva, Indica and mixed) with prices by the gram and by the ounce. Or was it a “eighth” and an ounce. Or a gram and a parcel? Whatever, it was like 18 bucks for a small amount and 60 for a larger amount.

“Can you give me like a starter pack? Like a little from each variety of your favorites?” I asked. See back in my day there was only one variety of pot. It was called “pot”. And it was a shade of green, and you smoked it, but that was pretty much it. It was like 1978 in a wine store. Red or white?

The wine revolution was happening before my eyes.

She takes out three bell jars and starts to rattle off “This is X998 from hum bolt, definitely more nutty than your other herb. Nice after effect, and smooth head. This is Green Machine coming from Kuchoo Oregon, small batch distributor with a citrus train that brings you at a higher altitude…” or some shit like that. Quite frankly I only heard the first two words as I smelled the jar and had my mind blown. First, When she opened the jar and presented it I held back the desire to laugh out loud. She was a pot sommelier and I was going to test the cork. Where the hell was I. So I did. Hoping that’s why she opened the jar in the first place. I had the urge to tip the jar back in my mouth, swoosh a few buds in there, then spit them out, just to see what she would do.

People are VERY serious about classifying their bud. That is a sign of a higher more sophisticated practice. Don’t believe me? Check out Leafly sometime:

Anyway, I stuck with just smelling them. I’m glad I did because pot, and the smell of it IS FUCKING CRAZY. What was really crazy was that all three of them SMELLED WICKEDLY DIFFERENT and unlike anything else I’ve ever smelled. So after some nodding and “oh, yes”ing as if I understood what the fuck she was saying, she put a few nugs of each in individual sealed bags and sent this noob on his way. She threw in a hash cookie, and I grabbed some gummy candy to play with. Then she said “84 dollars all together”. Oh right. It’s cash only. I remember (vaguely) from my trip to Denver that this was a cash only business. I still don’t know why the government doesn’t want in on this. Seems ridiculous.

“Shit. So sorry. Totally forgot. Where is the A-”

“Right behind you hun.”

Right. All figured out. I’ve been to Supermarkets that aren’t this well-organized.

“Here is a free joint for happy hour. Happy hour is every day between 4:20 pm and 6:20pm. If you shop with us at that time you get a free joint. Thanks and see you soon!”

A free joint. I mean, this was amazing.

19 minutes later I was in my car with a little brown bag full of week things and a certificate that says I’m allowed to have them. Kinda incredible. I felt accomplished in a weird way, like I took part in a movement that was happening. Mind you it was an amount of weed that would seem minuscule to the adverse user, but would last me at least 3 years. That wasn’t the point. The point was that this was an excercise of freedom, of living in a country that was embracing (however slowly) change.

And it felt good. America.

Coming home I took everything out and looked at it. It was all so nicely packaged I didn’t even want to use any of it. I was amazed to see that each jelly was 150 fucking calories, like a can of coke, and thought “that has got to be a mistake” or… the diabetes council has their hands in this somehow. Regardless living in LA wouldn’t be complete without having your marijuana carry card, and I can now call the Left Coast my home.


For information on how to use pot, this was a good place to start since none of this crap comes with instructions. Honestly, there should be instructions, a nice little panflet with pictures. Ikea style. Just cartoons. Right?