If you search for Medical Marijuana in Los Angeles over 1000 listings for dispensaries and doctors come up. Drive down any street in LA and you are bound to come across a dispensary sooner or later. LA Weekly features advertisements for dispensaries in the back of the paper next to cheap plastic surgery and escort service ads. Marijuana is currently decriminalized in the state of California and many other states, if you have a medical marijuana card, it’s completely legal to possess the substance. Medical Marijuana is said to treat the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, pain, multiple sclerosis, and anxiety. While pot may boast a variety of health benefit claims, just how many customers are actually purchasing and consuming with the intent to treat an illness?
Obtaining a medical marijuana card is easier than you think. There are several doctor’s offices around LA alone that require no referrals, most places allow walk ins and a card can be acquired the same day. Patients undergo an evaluation from the doctor and are asked to pay a fee for the card, most places ask for as little as $40. Any vague explanation for needing a card is welcome by these doctors. Medical histories are not looked at and many patients lie or stretch the truth in order to qualify. The age requirement for a card is 18 years old, but some teens use fake IDs if they are underage. One medical marijuana information site even links to retailers where fake IDs can be purchased.
Once a card is obtained, patients have a variety of marijuana shops to choose from. Often the dispensaries are adorned with a neon pot leaf or a green cross on the outside of the building. Inside patients are welcomed by a plethora of marijuana all completely legal for purchase. The menus feature exotic and intoxicating strains of pot, often with very non-medical sounding names such as “Cat Piss” and “Grand Daddy Purple”. Pipes and bongs are sold, as well as “edibles” or foods cooked with Marijuana butter. Some shops even have lounges where patrons can smoke their goods from a communal bong and spend hours watching television on a plush couch.
The medical marijuana industry is very seductive to pot lovers young and old alike. It provides a safe, easy way to get high. Most of the patients do not require actual medical assistance from marijuana and are using it as an excuse to get high without legal consequence. These people are taking advantage of the system because they aren’t even ill. They’re addicted to marijuana. Its now easier than ever for young people to consume pot, especially because so many people today have medical marijuana cards. The drug has been more and more de-stigmatized in our California culture and is allowing people to excuse themselves from the fact that it is still a mind altering drug than can have serious side effects.
Some side effects include:
- Disturbed perceptions or thoughts
- Worsened symptoms for those with schizophrenia
- Impaired judgment
- Impaired motor skills
- Increased heart rate
- Low motivation
Marijuana also contains carcinogenic chemicals, increasing the users risk of cancer. Some smokers even have the same respiratory problems as cigarette smokers.
While many pro marijuana advocates claim the drug is harmless, what happens why we have a bunch of people smoking the readily available substance on a regular basis? What happens when it becomes common to spark up a joint before driving the kids to school in the morning? Marijuana, legal or not, can impair the driver the same way alcohol can. If our kids see adults smoking pot this casually they may take it upon themselves to start smoking younger and more frequently.
Although marijuana is not physically addictive many habitual users become psychologically addicted often citing withdrawal symptoms such as sleeplessness, increased agitation and irritability. People addicted to smoking pot may find themselves struggling with work or school as they are too busy preparing for their next high. Marijuana users fall into unhealthy patterns and behaviors as with any other substance. Friends and families are blown off, obligations are not met and decreased social skills can contribute a marijuana dependent lifestyle.
There’s plenty of debate on the substance being a gateway drug–meaning smoking pot could lead to harder, more dangerous drugs. If Marijuana becomes legal and acceptable to take part in on a daily basis, what will the new gateway drug be?