How to Buy Weed, Legally

04/21/2015 11:18 am ET | Updated Jun 21, 2015

The other week, I wrote an article about my chronic illness. One of the first questions people like to ask when I tell them I have chronic pain is, "Have you tried just smoking weed?" The answer is, of course, yes, but my illness -- like many others' -- is too complex to be cured by cannabis.

So it may seem like a contradiction that I embarked on a hunt for medical marijuana last week. But now that I was off all "traditional" painkillers, I figured it was worth another shot. Little did I know the bizarre and seemingly unending series of events that would come of this decision.

Like most stories that never quite end, mine begins at the DMV. It was a quiet Monday morning, the sun shining brightly on the glittering sidewalks of Southern California. On one sidewalk in particular stood a woman, clutching her papers and iPhone like they were her first-born child. She was ready to declare herself a bonafide California resident.

I had scheduled my DMV appointment for 8:40 a.m.

Standing in line outside, I held my head high, praising myself for making such a wise, responsible move. A few minutes later, I realized that I had forgotten both my wallet and passport at home. Luckily my mother had driven me, so she left to retrieve the items. In 20 minutes she returned with only my wallet, because I had failed to ask her to bring my passport. (I also had no idea where it was.)

About half an hour passed before I began to wonder if there was a separate waiting area for those with appointments. There was. That line was inside and about three people long.

So I was off to a good start on my quest for legal weed.

Three short hours later, I had my temporary state license. But before I ran off to the dispensary like a jolly little leprechaun, I first had to prove that I was sick. So I called to make an appointment at a clinic about 20 minutes away.

The cheery man on the other end of the phone scheduled me for a 4:30 appointment that same day. I showed up a bit early, at 4:20 p.m.

At the clinic, I waited in a small room at the end of an empty hall in an even emptier business building. Of the four of us in the waiting room, I was the youngest. I kept wondering where everyone else went for their recommendations. Was I even in the right place?

I was definitely in the right place, because a few moments later, a doctor called my name. He wore scrubs under a red hoodie and spoke very slowly.

"So, you're here for migraines?" he asked.

I figured that was close enough, so I said yes. I added that I had a constant everyday headache, accompanied by nightly migraines. There was a lot more to it, but I don't think either of us really felt like getting into it. He asked questions like whether or not I was allergic to any medications and if I had any other serious medical issues.

After a minute of these questions, the doctor asked what triggered my migraines. When I explained for a second time that my pain was constant, he looked up from his legal pad.

"Like, every day?"

I nodded.


Without hesitating, he signed the recommendation and handed it to me. I thanked him and he replied, "No, thank you." He had just made $100 in five minutes, and I had received a prescription for medical marijuana, so we were both having a pretty good day.

After traveling back home, I decided to call up a local dispensary. I hopped online and found one nearby that delivered. All I had to do was text them a photo of my California ID and the recommendation from my doctor.

One hour later, a very friendly person arrived at my home with my order, plus some complimentary extras since I was a first-time patient. My mom sat in the living room during the whole interaction. "Oh, you already ordered it?" she asked when my delivery came. The whole scenario felt absurdly natural and easy.

So it was all very official. I could legally smoke weed in my house. And while I can't say that weed magically eliminated all my aches and pains, it did help somewhat. If nothing else, I was glad to be distracted. By dinnertime, waiting in line at the DMV seemed like ages ago. And I was eating pasta, lots of pasta.