“Once the doctor writes that recommendation, I think the burden lies with the doctor,” he adds. Because the onus is on the experts, law enforcement should focus their attention on the doctors, not the patients. “I think that if there’s an issue there, an abuse going on, then it’s really an issue between the doctors and medical board and not between patients and law enforcement.”
Dispensing with niceties
One way to corroborate Dudley’s opinions would be to talk to professionals who dealt firsthand with the perils of pot growing — the owners and workers of what are known as either medical-marijuana dispensaries or commissaries.
Or so I thought.
Since Prop 215 was passed, these legal (at least according to California state law) pot purveyors have been sprouting up around California.
Supposedly, here’s how things work at a Weed-Mart: After being admitted to the dispensary, a patient shows his doctor’s recommendation and the required state-issued ID card; the patient is then shown a seat while the Weed-Mart associate checks out his papers; if everything checks out, the patient is invited to purchase the product that best suits his needs.
That much I learned from Daley and Dudley.
But San Diego is currently in a mild state of panic over medical marijuana. Since a notorious June 6, 2006 bust of local medical-marijuana dispensaries by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), in conjunction with the SD County Sheriff’s Department, most dispensaries have either closed up shop while waiting for better times or fled north out of the county or are lying so low they have to look up to count buds.
Finding anyone associated with one of the closed Weed-Marts in San Diego was more trouble than it proved to be worth. Finding someone to talk to at one of the open but clandestine operations was impossible.
So I headed north.
The staid and laid-back surfer culture of Dana Point is a far cry from San Diego’s busyness, but the Dana Point commissary must have been close enough to memories of 6/6/06 to give its proprietors cold feet at the slightest ripple in circumstances, and sometimes a reporter makes a ripple without even trying.
The Dana Point Commissary set up shop in a dingy grey townhouse. At my first knock, the door buzzes alive with a remote security lock. I open it and make it as far as the waiting room painted in the inevitable moldy-sickly green of any marijuana-related color scheme. On a TV mounted in a corner of the empty room, one of CNN’s talking heads reports at a conversational volume.
Adjacent to the receptionist’s window, a door leads, I assume, to the product room. As I walk toward it, it opens and a man’s well-coifed head pokes out.
“Yes, can I help you?”
Introducing myself, I tell him I’m there to meet Steve.
After inviting me to sit, he jerks his head back through the door and disappears.
I take a seat in one of the cheap stacking chairs that line the waiting room’s mirrored wall. Two minutes later, the man’s head sticks out the door again.
He introduces himself as Tony, no last name. A young guy — no more than 25. With a friendly face, and perhaps by habit, he treats my presence as the prelude to a potential sale.
“Is Steve here?” I ask.
He takes a step out the door — now his torso and one leg are visible as well — but clings to the doorjamb as if trying to hold up the building.
“Steve’s not here today,” he says. “He called in sick.”
I repeat, with more detail, that Steve and I had made an appointment to meet regarding my story.
Tony takes another quarter-step into the room, and now everything is visible except his right arm up to his shoulder. He seems to be holding on to something behind the wall — maybe a security alarm.
“He won’t be in until…um…later. Today. He’ll be in later today.”
I tell him I’ve driven 70 miles with a borrowed car to see Steve. That gas prices are what they are. That I am on a deadline. That surely he can do better than “later today.”
Now he stands altogether in the room — tall and wiry, like a basketball or track star. Fully engaged, he still keeps his distance, perhaps to keep the tactical advantage over this potential threat. However it translates, he knows he’s let this reporter into the waiting room on his watch.
“Look, I apologize for that. I…you.… He really is sick, and I know he’ll be in later today.” Tony stumbles, hoping to regain a surer footing with the truth. “Really — I know because I know Steve personally. We live in the same house. We share the same house, and I can tell you he’ll be in the later part of the early afternoon. But I don’t feel comfortable calling the shot here, so maybe you should come back when Steve comes in.”
Which means what — one o’clock? Two o’clock?
look, you drove all this way, why don’t you go get some lunch and I’ll call you when he gets in?”
After giving him my cell phone number and checking the headlines on CNN one last time, I head for the door.
I drive back up the other end of town to visit one of the most popular marijuana doctors in California, Dr. Alfonso Jimenez. After 6/6/06, he too had fled north to Dana Point.
“…a Cannabis specialist or Qualified Medical Marijuana Examiner has become a specialty because of the medical-legal complexities surrounding the issuing of a Medical Marijuana Recommendation.”
—Alfonso Jimenez, Dr. Jimenez Guide: Medical Marijuana Guide (pg. 4)
Dr. Alfonso Jimenez is a celebrity in the medical-marijuana community. A Hispanic Jew, he considers himself a serious practitioner in a serious branch of medicine.
He doesn’t shy away from the attention he’s drawn to himself either. With flash and panache he greets and sizes up a stranger in a single glance. His wavy shock of black hair with dramatic brown streaks matches his intense, anthracitic eyes, close set in a dark complexion.