The week begins with an email from “MMJMenu” with the subject line “Hey BUD!” It’s only after reading the subject line that I can make a guess as to what the contents of the email will offer.
It’s the week before Easter and the auspicious date of 4/20. I’m not aware of this until we step foot into the next dispensary on our agenda. A Sunday afternoon and we mosey over to Hollywood Boulevard, to the location of the closest dispensary to my first apartment in Los Angeles mentioned in my February column. We are in what is called Thai Town, Little Armenia adjacent.
It’s tricky to rock a rhyme,
to rock a rhyme that’s right on time
it’s tricky (tricky)
These lyrics blast at us as we walk through the doorway opened by the security guard who spied us down the block and, I suppose, assumed where we were headed. If not there we might be headed to a home health care center a couple of doors down, a psychic, or to a “sacred arts” art gallery/yoga studio/healing arts center.
And the music really is blasting. I can hardly concentrate as I read over the forms, but my consort points out a few interesting variations on the paperwork we’ve signed—at this point, eight unique sets that qualify us to be members of these collectives and abide by their respective rules.
The walls are red and the ceilings high. There’s a Jimi Hendrix poster, and another poster advertising “420 Day” and, maybe since the second dispensary I visited six months ago, I notice a stand filled with free marijuana lifestyle magazines, this one with Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN on the cover, along with “420 Collector’s Edition” highlighted in the top left corner of the magazine. A sign looms: NO CELLPHONES ON PREMISES. How anyone can expect this in 2014 is beyond me.
The woman behind the clear, thick Plexiglass is friendly, the first level of friendly it turns out because when we’re finally allowed into the next room, another young woman offers another level of friendly. It becomes clear we are in another waiting room because we’re offered juice from a glass dispenser and coffee, with self-serve Dixie and Styrofoam cups. This room has green walls and as I get some juice (“Tang” my consort insists), I notice a Shrek-like character painted near a corner. Is it some kind of marijuana imp or mascot or mythical creature I’m unaware of? The ladies return our medical recommendations and drivers licenses to us. When I take a seat, one comes out to show us a laminated poster with all the 420 specials they will offer the following week. She explains the discounts and the freebies for the first 300 customers who walk in the door. It may be Easter Sunday for some, but 4/20 is a whole other kind of holiday, apparently.
The enormous glass case in the waiting area is unusual in that the top shelf is given over completely to Los Angeles Dodgers memorabilia. More bobbleheads than I’ve ever seen in one place stand around looking at us. The shelves underneath offer the more typical wares of gigantic glass bongs and sophisticated-looking vaporizers.
With smiles, we’re directed to the next room, the buying room. Here we’re greeted by two budtenders, men, and one seems appointed to us. Another layer of customer service expertise is displayed when he introduces himself and begins giving us a “tour” of the small room. “These are mirror images of what’s in the glass cases over there,” he says, so we understand that the case in front of us contains all the strains of loose bud they have. A practiced salesperson, he shares his knowledge on both the top and bottom shelf strains (as low as $8 a gram) and offers sniffs from the mason jars. He speaks in a particular weed language I haven’t heard from any budtenders yet, using phrasings such as “creative vs. euphoric” to describe strains, including one that offers ability to see through “writing projects” in which a consumer might “think outside of the box.” I wonder if he sells to a lot of writers; I haven’t mentioned I’m one.
The neon chalkboard tells us there are daily happy hours. “I know it’s loud,” our budtender offers by way of apology for talking above the blaring music. I look at a paper flyer given to us by one of the women and learn that wristbands, stickers and matches are free for the taking (I have seen none of these offered), and “refreshments and edible samples are complimentary.” I haven’t been offered a sample, but was the “juice” doctored? (It was not, I decide after a couple of hours.)
We leave the premises and I grab a lifestyle magazine on the way out. There are over two hundred pages of glossy ads, articles, and ten features listed in the table of contents. “420” is displayed in as many fonts as you can imagine, and a dotted line with scissors illustration is peppered throughout, signaling the reader to cut the coupon, visit the dispensary. Full-page ads wish me “Happy 420.” It does come but once a year, unless you count the daily 4:20 a.m. or p.m. “420” has become more of a culture than a code. Seeking cause to celebrate is human. This particular culture has created a lucrative marketing strategy around a so-called holiday and its consumers will no doubt celebrate.