An old hippie buys pot in Md. — legally

Regulators approved Maryland's first medical marijuana dispensary on Wednesday, authorizing a Frederick company to open its doors immediately even though the drug will not be available for months.

If Cheech and Chong walked into RISE’s brand new Bethesda, Md., showroom, they might think they’d taken a wrong turn into a LensCrafters.

Located on the first floor of a nondescript medical building, RISE’s medical marijuana dispensary is adjacent to an upscale shopping center that also boasts a Balducci’s gourmet grocery, a CVS and a Starbucks.


When it’s your turn, you’re escorted through a locked door to an antiseptic showroom, then seated on a high stool in front of a glass display case. Inside the case lay a myriad of medicinal marijuana products, from flowers to THC pills, elixirs and oils.

But they’re all hidden in opaque white plastic pouches and tubes. You can almost hear Cheech Marin’s first question, as he squints through the glass: “Where’s the we-e-e-e-e-d, man?”

That’s what it’s like for a 62-year old hippie buying medical marijuana for the first time in Maryland. It’s thrilling and utterly surreal. After four decades buying pot on the black market, I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder for the cops as I walked out of the building, clutching my envelope full of dope. Paranoia strikes deep.

Dispensaries finally opened in December in Maryland, four long years after legal medical sales were OK’d by the General Assembly. While Colorado and California dispensaries display beautiful green buds in glass jars, here in Maryland, the product is being kept considerably more under cover.

That’s because Maryland’s 30 pages of medical marijuana regulations direct dispensaries to package it in “plain,” “opaque” and “child-resistant” packages. These packages proved even more baffling for me than your typical CVS prescription. The “pinch and squeeze” directions at the top of the envelope proved impenetrable for my arthritic fingers (one of the conditions that qualified me as a “chronic pain” sufferer in the first place). I finally cut the damn thing apart with scissors.

Out tumbled the plastic vials containing my pre-rolled joints. Now, how to open them? Got out my glasses, but still couldn’t read the microscopic opening directions on the top. At one point, I contemplated using PVC cutters, since the vials were too thick for scissors. But, eventually, they popped open under groaning pressure from both my crippled hands.

Why can’t I have simple lids, like CVS gives me for my blood pressure and cholesterol pills?

Maryland’s registration and certification process was almost as daunting. I registered in Rockville, with a company called “Green Health Doctors.” It boasts a giant marijuana leaf on its logo (identical T-shirts for sale at $20) and is decorated with marijuana strain information posters that mimic the periodic chart of chemical elements. What will they think of next?

Doctor certification involved a 5-minute glance at my patient symptoms checklist and a quick listen with a stethoscope. This cost $200 — cash only — and must be renewed each year at an additional $150 a pop.

The question, now, is how this old hippie can make sense of all the products on the market. According to the web, there are hundreds of different strains of medical marijuana. These have clever names like “Girl Scout Cookies, “Purple Urkel” and “Crouching Tiger Hidden Alien.” One L.A. dispensary menu alone boasts 27 types of the indica specias, 10 strains of the sativa species and 36 hybrids; for consumption options, they offer 96 extracts, 134 edibles and 29 topicals. These include “crumble,” “shatter” and “kief-infused” marijuana. I looked up “kief” on Google, which told me it’s hash. Well, why didn’t they just say so? I KNOW what that is!

Well, at least I’m now earning “Canna-points” for my purchases. This morning I got an email from a Germantown dispensary announcing its “exclusive loyalty and rewards program.” I’ve amassed 378 points after only one purchase. “The more you spend, the more you save!” the email exclaimed. Just got a text from another dispensary, telling me that "Pineapple Skunk" and "Blue Cheese" flowers have "just arrived."

All this old hippie can say in response is: “Far out, man!”

Linda Roberts is a retired school teacher; her email is