As soon as my medical marijuana card arrived in the mail, I jumped in my car and rushed over to the weed dispensary to do some shopping.
The dispensary is located on Clark Street in the Andersonville neighborhood. I’ve passed it dozens of times but never gave it any thought. The name, Dispensary 33, meant nothing to me.
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked in the door. I hoped to see Grateful Dead posters on the walls and hear Jimi Hendrix music blaring from speakers. It would also have been nice to see a group of happy stoners sitting on the floor and passing joints.
But it didn’t happen like I had hoped. Since it was a state-run facility (Illinois Dept. of Public Health), Dispensary 33 was as dry, sterile and characterless as any government building.
The reception area was a narrow corridor, the walls painted a stark white, with chairs along each wall, and a receptionist’s desk at the end of the hall. I figured the place would be crowded, but the only people in the waiting area were a thuggish looking guy, who I assumed was the security guard, and the receptionist.
After filling out some paperwork and agreeing to abide by a few legal stipulations, the receptionist admitted me to the holy of holies, the inner sanctum — the marijuana sales room.
Again, I was disappointed. The sales room was a sterile environment, just like the waiting room. I might as well have been at Walgreen’s, picking up some deodorant and Preparation H.
An earnest young clerk came up to me and asked if I had any experience with marijuana.
“A bit,” I replied.
He then showed me a display of the various strains of marijuana available, nicely arrayed in a glass case, and explained the effects and properties of each. One strain helped with pain. Another was for rest and relaxation. There was one that induced euphoria and one for anxiety.
I listened patiently to the clerk’s pitch, then ordered an eighth of an ounce each of Sativa Hybrid and Indica. The cost was $60 per eighth.
The clerk apologized because Dispensary 33 didn’t take plastic. It was a cash only enterprise.
“No problem,” I replied, reaching into my pocket. “I understand that marijuana has always been a cash only business.”
I had mixed feelings when I left Dispensary 33. I liked having access to hassle-free weed, but I didn’t enjoy the process of acquiring it.
Although it was the first time in 50 years I was able to purchase marijuana legally, I preferred the traditional, time-honored method of buying pot. I missed going to my neighborhood dealer’s place, hanging out for a while, sampling the product, listening to music, having a beer or two, and chatting with other customers. It was a more civilized way to do illicit business.
As Edmund O’Brien said in The Wild Bunch, “It ain’t like it used to be, but it’ll do.”
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