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Legal marijuana

Oklahoma Gazette’s medical marijuana correspondent reflects on getting his license and being able to possess marijuana legally.

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Matt Dinger is Oklahoma Gazette’s medical marijuana correspondent. - ALEXA ACE
  • Alexa Ace
  • Matt Dinger is Oklahoma Gazette’s medical marijuana correspondent.

Christmas came a few days early for me this year.

After 11 days of waiting — or 18 years, depending on how you look at it — it was official. As of Dec. 22, I can now legally possess and consume cannabis in my home state.

The critics were partially correct — the license was almost comically easy to obtain. But the critics were also wrong — my vet wouldn’t write me a recommendation while I was there with the cat last month.

When State Question 788 passed, I had no intention of getting my patient license. I didn’t consume a large enough amount of cannabis to make it necessary or worthwhile. Besides, my usage was still largely a secret, or at least not publicly shared information.

Being a salty and experienced reporter, I also expect things that are too good to be true to turn out not to be true at all.

But the course of the last two months covering the burgeoning cannabis industry tempered my cynicism.

Since October, I’ve spoken to politicians, lawyers, state government employees, entrepreneurs and a handful of friends who slowly eroded my resistance. The interview with registered nurse Renee Harper of Green Hope Wellness Clinic was the tipping point.

I made the appointment online. I had a firm price tag for an inclusive visit — $239.30 — and an appointment scheduled six minutes after one of my good friends with whom I had shared the news of Green Hope’s model.

He was in a bad wreck this summer and still has a lot of pain and limited mobility in his shoulder. Thanks to Senate Bill 1446, it has become exceedingly difficult for him to get pain medication while he awaits surgery. This man could always drink me under the table, but he could never hang when we smoked, so he’s the kind of legitimate medical patient this law was tailored to serve.

He came with his papers in order, paid the fee and was finished seeing the doctor before I had my own paperwork filled out.

It was the opposite of any medical consult I’ve ever experienced. Instead of explaining the problem and letting the doctor choose the treatment, I was asked why I thought medical cannabis would benefit me.

Once upon a time, I’d wanted to be a doctor, and I’ve never thought it necessary to lie to one. This appointment was no different.

I don’t have chronic pain, seizures or crippling anxiety. What I do have is a brain that runs a million miles an hour and which a small amount of cannabis has always been able to relax just enough so I can order and communicate my thoughts coherently. What I do have is just enough social anxiety to make certain situations uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and for which just a hit or two an hour or more beforehand can curb. What I do have is a career steeped in breaking news, most of which was a medley of storytelling about catastrophe and pain. Smoking a little weed soothed my raw nerves and quieted the endless loop of carnage and misery I took home in my head every night. Years later, certain thoughts and images occasionally still sneak up on me.

I also know that amphetamines do not calm me and benzodiazepines like Xanax inexplicably send me into fits of rage.

What I don’t have is the urge of my halcyon days of pot smoking where we tried to get as stoned as humanly possible. What I do have is the desire to try some cannabis with more evenly matched THC to CBD ratios like Harlequin and knowing that what I’m buying is actually the strain I want.

I’m past the days where dabs and moon rocks appeal to me but I am curious about exploring THC/CBD tinctures and whatever medicine might come from that realm as the industry progresses.

Writing the word “medicine,” I still snicker a bit internally, even after more than a decade of using cannabis more medicinally than recreationally. Conditioning dies hard.

The doctor had heard enough to sign off on my recommendation.

My friend and I had our photos taken and applications uploaded to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA). We were both in and out in about 30 minutes. I got my approval email nine days later and my license in a plain, white envelope two days after that.

And thus ended nearly two decades of secrecy and dishonesty about my cannabis usage.

The friend I got my license with asked not to be identified. He has a family and works remotely for a company out of state. Even though the only reason he has his medical card is to manage his residual pain from the crash, he’s still worried about his employer finding out, a fear that he didn’t have when he was being prescribed opioids.

Even though the license sits firmly in my wallet and I was asked by my editor to write about my experience, it still nags me internally to be penning this. While the stigma is rapidly waning, it is still very real. I worry about this bit of writing coming back to haunt me. I shouldn’t.

KIMBERLY LYNCH
  • Kimberly Lynch

I first smoked pot when I was in middle school. I didn’t pick it up again until I was a senior in high school. With the exception of a few breaks as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been a daily cannabis user for more than half my life.

In that time, I’ve passed the joint to lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, accountants, teachers and professors, artists, craftsmen and scores of blue-collar workers. All of us have gotten up each day to go about our responsibilities, including raising families, and some of us were a little high when we did it.

More than a few, like myself, have gotten away with it for years on end without consequence. Others have lost jobs or thousands of dollars fighting charges in court. And some of my friends have gone to prison over this plant.

Cannabis culture has always seemed silly to me, but there’s a lot to be optimistic about in this new local industry. Watching as more states decriminalize or pass medical or recreational marijuana laws, the reality that this is the new normal is slowing sinking in.

But as much as the landscape is shifting, with new cannabis businesses seemingly birthing overnight, I still don’t know how long it will be before I get used to being asked if I want a receipt when I buy my weed.

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