The parking lot of a Widespread Panic show, public parks, street corners, I have bought cannabis in many places. The one thing those transactions all had in common was that they were never legal. Years ago, I smoked a lot, and I never got the allure of medical marijuana. Sure, I knew it had real tangible medical benefits. However, I never understood why we were all pretending that marijuana was still some big, bad, scary evil. I also assumed medical marijuana would be an overpriced inconvenience that would be a bigger hassle than making small talk with a chatty dealer. I was squarely in the recreational legalization camp, hoping we could just skip the whole medical "charade." Years ago, I also used to think I would run a marathon, so needless to say, my "years ago" viewpoints left a lot to be desired.
Any significant cultural shift takes time, and cannabis acceptance is no different. Generations of "Reefer Madness" propaganda needed to be undone so the cloistered citizens of the moral majority don't get their cancel culture-fearing, healthcare-withholding sensibilities in a bunch. The good news is that the perception of marijuana as a society eroding evil has fallen rapidly. Over two-thirds of the American public are now pro-legalization, increasing more than 100% since 1969. The Florida Supreme Court even had to block voters from chiming in whether to legalize recreational adult use of marijuana in 2022.
This increased public acceptance of cannabis is mirrored by its legal status. There are only two states that still have full prohibition. I'm looking at you, Idaho and Nebraska. In the higher 48 states, marijuana is either medically or entirely legal.
As the public perception of marijuana started to shift towards legalization, my own habits had me moving away from cannabis. After a couple of bad experiences with edibles where I managed to get high enough to punch a hole into the space-time continuum, I thought that maybe marijuana wasn't for me. Pre-medical marijuana, I didn't know the dosage of anything I was taking. In my youthful exuberance, I consistently overindulged. If every time you drank liquor, you drank the entire bottle of Jagermeister, you would probably think that maybe drinking wasn't for you. That is precisely the mistake I was repeatedly making. One brownie makes me feel good; two will make me feel great! Uh oh, time no longer has meaning, and I am losing track of my own being as it melts into the great ether that is this universe. Eventually, I turned my back on marijuana, convinced that it was simply "not for me."
Years went by, I quit drinking alcohol, and my low-level anxiety issues blossomed into a full-blown panic disorder. I went to a psychiatrist, focused on meditation, changed my diet, and tried various other distractions. Some were effective, others not so much. If anyone wants a stack of adult color books and coloring pencils, I got a deal for you. After a couple of years, things began to normalize. I stopped renewing my Xanax prescriptions and was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But as anyone that has ever suffered from anxiety knows, it will rear its head again at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. When these times would come, I had more tools to deal with it, but I would still find myself white-knuckling my way through too many days. That is when I began exploring cannabis and CBD for relief.
I had doubts; I mean, I have anxiety, that kind of comes with the territory. If you show me a good idea, I will find the flaw. It's a real treat. So I began what I was sure would be a journey through red tape, high prices, and bureaucratic delays.
I booked my appointment with a doctor through Doc MJ—a Clearwater-based company with 29 locations across Florida. Jackie Rothman, COO of Doc MJ, told CL that her company has processed more than 86,000 medical cannabis patients statewide in the last four years.
One of their operators gave me a call and talked me through the entire process. He was knowledgeable and friendly. We spoke on a Friday, and I had an appointment to see the doc the following Wednesday. Immediately I was encouraged. They got me in to see a doctor faster than my general practitioner ever has. The day of my appointment came, and the experience was streamlined to perfection. My appointment time was 3:30 p.m., and I saw the doctor by 3:35 p.m.—unheard of! No waiting room after the waiting room, no long delay. We talked for a bit about my experiences with anxiety and my past treatments. He offered me some suggestions, answered my questions, and provided me with a bevy of information. I was out before 4 p.m. I finalized the process online at home, sent the state their money, and waited. A week later, I got an email with my approval and my ID card, which meant I could go to the dispensary.
Out of sheer excitement, I drove to the closest dispensary. It was a Curaleaf location. First things first, there was a buy-one-get-one special. You guys, there are specials. BOGO marijuana, it was enough to make my 19-year-old self tear up. You know those really great bartenders or sommeliers that listen enthusiastically to what you like and patiently guide you through the options to make sure that you get what you are looking for? Yeah, that was the type of guy that worked with me. We talked for a while, and I walked out with a couple Indica vape cartridges, a battery to use them with, and some fast-acting hybrid edibles with exact dosages. Armed with these products and guidance, I was able to enjoy marijuana without having to question my existence in this universe.
Medical marijuana has far exceeded my hopes. Finally, I know what works for me. I know exactly how much to take, and I can manage my anxiety effectively without needing any pills. Sure there are side effects, the Grateful Dead makes more sense to me than ever before, but nothing good comes without a few side effects.
Recreational marijuana legalization seems like an inevitability, but I will be saying mea culpas for my short-sightedness between taking puffs of Orange Kush Cake until then.
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