My Trip to the Pot Shop

PUEBLO WEST, Colo. — It’s 9 a.m. on a weekday, and I’m at the Marisol Therapeutics pot shop. This is serious business. Security is tight. ID checks are frequent. Merchandise is strictly regulated, labeled, wrapped and controlled. The store is clean, bright and safe. The staffers are courteous and professional. Customers of all ages are here.

There’s a middle-aged woman at the counter nearby who could be your school librarian. On the opposite end of the dispensary, a slender young soldier in a wheelchair with close-cropped hair, dressed in his fatigues, consults with a clerk. There’s a gregarious cowboy and an inquisitive pair of baby boomers looking at edibles. A dude in a hoodie walks in with his backpack.

And then there’s my husband and me.

The dispensary is split in two: “recreational” on one side, “medical” on the other. Medical customers must have state-issued cards and doctor’s approval. The inventory is not taxed, so prices are lower on that side. On the recreational side, where I’m peering at mysterious jars of prickly green goods, “Smoke on the Water” is thumping from stereo speakers. Yes, there’s a massive banner advertising a Tommy Chong appearance, and issues of “High Times” are on display. But the many imposing signs posted on the wall emphatically warn: No smoking, no open drug consumption, and absolutely no entry allowed into the locked lab where the cannabis plants sit under bright lights.

Before I tell you how and why my hubby and I ended up at Marisol Therapeutics, some background about my longtime support of medical marijuana: More than 15 years ago in Seattle, while working at The Seattle Times, I met an extraordinary man who changed my mind about the issue. Ralph Seeley was a Navy nuclear submarine officer, pilot, cellist and lawyer suffering from chordoma, a rare form of bone cancer that starts in the spine. He had undergone several surgeries, including removal of one lung and partial removal of the other, and was confined to a wheelchair.

Chronically nauseous from chemotherapy and radiation, weak from a suppressed appetite, and suffering excruciating pain, Seeley turned to marijuana cigarettes for relief.

Contrary to cultural stereotype, Seeley was far from “wasted.” While smoking the drug to reduce his pain, he finished law school — something he couldn’t have done while on far more powerful “mainstream” narcotics, which left him zonked out and vomiting uncontrollably in his hospital bed after chemo. Seeley had the backing of his orthopedic doctor and University of Washington School of Medicine oncologist Dr. Ernest Conrad. He took his plight to the Washington state supreme court, where he asserted a constitutionally protected liberty interest in having his doctor issue a medical pot prescription.

The court rejected Seeley’s case for physician-prescribed marijuana, arguing that the government’s interest in preserving an “interlocking trellis” of costly and ineffective War on Drug laws trumped his right to individual autonomy and physician treatment. After a decade-long battle with cancer, Seeley died in 1998. But his spirit persevered. Seeley bravely paved the way for medical marijuana laws in nearly two dozen states, including Washington’s Initiative 692, approved by voters 10 months after he died, and Colorado’s Amendment 20, passed by popular referendum in 2000.

Support for these ballot measures and similar efforts (like the newly enacted Charlee’s Law in Utah legalizing medical cannabis oil) transcends political lines. Why? Because cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and other chronic and terminal diseases have no partisan affiliations.

This brings us back to Pueblo. For the past three months, my mother-in-law, Carole, whom I love with all my heart, has battled metastatic melanoma. After a harrowing week of hospitalization and radiation, she’s at home now. A miraculous new combination of oral cancer drugs seems to have helped enormously with pain and possibly contained the disease’s spread. But Carole’s loss of appetite and nausea persist.

A month ago, with encouragement from all of her doctors here in Colorado, she applied for a state-issued medical marijuana card. It still hasn’t come through. As a clerk at Marisol Therapeutics told us, there’s a huge backlog. But thanks to Amendment 64, the marijuana drug legalization act approved by voters in 2012, we were able to legally and safely circumvent the bureaucratic holdup. “A lot of people are in your same situation,” the pot shop staffer told us. “We see it all the time, and we’re glad we can help.”

Our stash included 10 pre-rolled joints, a “vape pen” and two containers of cheddar cheese-flavored marijuana crackers (they were out of brownies). So far, just one cracker a day is yielding health benefits. Carole is eating better than she has in three months. For us, there’s no greater joy than sharing the simple pleasure of gathering in the kitchen for a meal, with Grandma Carole at the head of the table.

Do I worry about the negative costs, abuses and cultural consequences of unbridled recreational pot use? Of course I do. But when you get past all the “Rocky Mountain High” jokes and look past all the cable-news caricatures, the legalized marijuana entrepreneurs here in my adopted home state are just like any other entrepreneurs: securing capital, paying taxes, complying with a thicket of regulations, taking risks and providing goods and services that ordinary people want and need. Including our grateful family.

Michelle Malkin is the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is malkinblog@gmail.com.

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  • loupgarous

    It’s time for conservatives to realize that our drug laws are just another vestige of the reign of Democrats like “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman and their phobic, vindictive lashing out at anything not white, Anglo-Saxon and stupid. Nothing in the Constitution allows the government to ban drugs or regulate their use. The “common welfare” is not enhanced by our “war on drugs,” nor is it way in any way a serious disincentive for anyone who wants to be high to get high.

    The true conservative, or at least libertarian approach to drug use is to educate the public intensively on the dangers in the use of various drugs, but to do so honestly and without fear-mongering. That is the farthest we ought to go (except, of course, to crack down on the sale of contaminated or adulterated drugs in the same way we would do for food or medication).

    The Constitution is our contract with each other. It’s time we allowed it to exert its full power to allow Americans that thing Jefferson called the “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, and got out of the business of unnecessarily regulating each others’ lives. Apart from the billions of dollars we’d save by declaring victory on the War on Drugs and ending it, we’d put every drug smuggler in North America in the poorhouse.

  • Josh

    Weed is not the boogeyman. Legalize it.

    I haven’t smoked since I was in my early 20s, and probably won’t smoke again. The head fog and drowsiness of coming down isn’t my thing. I’m a six pack of beer kinda guy, maybe a shot of whiskey.

    And I can’t help but find it hilarious that only a little while ago, one of the reasons to keep alcohol controlled was that guys like me would abuse it. Bottles of whiskey and beer chugging and ruining my life with the devil’s nectar. But I, like millions upon millions of others, can control myself and don’t find it very thrilling to become fall-down drunkards.

    My favorite on this subject is O’Reilly, who said in the same interview, paraphrased, “We don’t need scientific studies on pot, we know what it does. A hit of a joint it more powerful than a glass of wine. I know this. At least that’s what I think. But we don’t need science.”

    Eeesh. Legalize it all.

  • Darren Perkins

    Thank you for pointing out that this is not a political issue or at least should’nt be. It’s a common sense issue. This is true not only for medicinal use but recreational as well. Why should’nt there be a legal alternative to the most insidiously life destroying drug that is alcohol. If anyone thinks getting high makes you stupid then try dealing with a room full of drunken bar patrons.

  • gold7406

    5% will gain the benefit, 95% will abuse it.

    • Darren Perkins

      The same can be said for just about anything… most notably alcohol. The difference being that marijuana abusers don’t die or kill others driving as a result of overindulging. It doesn’t destroy families. You don’t lose control of yourself. The undeniable truth is that marijuana is a far less insidious drug and if common sense were used instead of cultural acceptance then the legalities of these drugs would be reversed.

      • gold7406

        let’s see what co. and wa. looks like in a year.

        • Darren Perkins

          Indeed why should it take a year for the ‘negative effects’ to surface? Those that want to smoke pot recreationally are and were already doing so. It is not a hard drug to acquire on the black market. The difference being that instead of the state and legal businessman making the profits it was the Mexican drug cartels.

          • gold7406

            I feel there will be a mass migration to those states when the weather gets warm. folks smoking a lot will never be able to pass a drug test, hence they will not be working. police, social services, and welfare services will be stretched, but the additional tax money generated by the mj sales will pay for them. exactly the opposite the state intended. time will tell.

          • David W. Hunter

            I feel you will be proven wrong. Do you really believe that he same majority who voted to pass the law are suddenly going to start firing people over drug tests? I think pot will be treated like alcohol. If you’re high at work, you get fired, just like if you were drunk at work. With few exceptions, citizens in Colorado aren’t going to care what you do on your own time.

          • gold7406

            I hope you’re right.

          • loupgarous

            David, I have to disagree with you here. It’s not the people who voted for legalization who require drug testing, it’s insurance companies, government and everyone else with an interest in having jobs performed safely and efficiently. Do you want the driver of the city bus zooming up behind you to be juiced on marijuana? Or the guy performing your coronary bypass surgery?

            The need for drug testing even after legalization is an unintended consequence of the law. It’s not so much “what you do in your own time,” but what you do with a drug that doesn’t clear the body as quickly as alcohol does, so that it’s not as easy or obvious to detect when someone’s unable to work or drive safely after using cannabis.

          • David W. Hunter

            No, I don’t want the bus driver or surgeon to be high, but I also don’t want either of them to be drunk, very tired, distracted or stupid. From what I understand, the euphoric effects of cannabis are present for a much shorter period than the chemicals in your blood stream. I had to look this up, because I’ve never tried it and never will). Wikipedia said the effects last from a few minutes to 8 hours, depending on the potency. How is this different from alcohol? I think I’d rather have a bus drive that was coming off of a cannabis based high than one who was severely hung over.

          • loupgarous

            Actually, Colorado (I don’t know about Washington state) has guaranteed the worst possible outcome from their legalization effort by the huge taxes imposed on legal marijuana. Like alcohol just after the repeal of Prohibition, excessively-taxed marijuana will keep smugglers and organized crime in business, and guarantee even more arrests and lives ruined by laws intended to punish small-scale cultivators and street dealing in dope. There’s no way that $400/ounce legal cannabis will compete with street dope that will always be less expensive. Being too poor to afford legal dope will be illegal in Colorado, and create a whole new class of “criminals” who haven’t done a single immoral thing. They just will have broken a bad law.

          • gold7406

            amazing but unfortunately, expected

        • loupgarous

          I have news for you, gold7406, the largest danger Colorado faces in a year is the aftermath of a fraudulently- elected State Assembly, and all the crooked, expensive, ruinous laws that will result. Coloradans who want marijuana have been able to get it under the very lenient rules for medicinal marijuana for years. The worst that can happen already has – metropolitan Denver has a burgeoning homeless problem at least partly attributable to the fact that some of the homeless came to Denver to get high, not to work or have families. Going the last bit of the way to full legalization won’t change that situation measurably.