By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
The Marijuana Machine
Taking the high road with one of OC’s burgeoning medical-marijuana delivery services
The young couple look like they’ve just woken up from a nap—or perhaps a more amorous bedroom activity. The girl, slender and pale with a cute upturned nose, has long curly hair swept over her shoulder. She wears a pair of tight-fitting, yoga-style gray sweat pants and an indigo-colored top. Her boyfriend, who is shirtless with black slacks, is a handsome, tanned kid with a slicked-back blond mane and an uncanny resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio. Yoga Girl is a college student from Los Angeles who grew up in Newport Beach and has just moved back home for the summer, renting an apartment a few blocks from the beach. She’s counting out $20 bills on a coffee table while her boyfriend stretches out on a futon.
“Here you go,” Yoga Girl says. “That’s my ID card. Do you have change for $200?”
Standing next to the coffee table is someone who prefers, for the purposes of this story, to be identified only as “Racer X.” He’s a short, wiry surfer with a crew cut, tattoos on his arms and a briefcase full of manila envelopes, each of which contains from one to six airtight, plastic containers full of medical marijuana. The girl has just shown him her State of California Medical Marijuana Identification Card (she’d read her ID number to Racer X’s boss over the phone an hour or so earlier), and Racer X has just handed her an envelope containing a quarter-ounce of pot, half of which is Lavender Kush—at $75 per eighth, one of the luxury strains available to medical marijuana smokers—and half of which is Northern Kush, which is also $75 per one-eighth ounce.
Racer X is a part-time driver for one of some two dozen cannabis clubs in Orange County that offer members door-to-door marijuana-delivery services. His day job involves stocking groceries at a local supermarket chain. He has been a recreational marijuana smoker for years, typically toking up early in the morning on his days off before hitting the waves or in the evenings after work. He bought his pot from a dealer and fellow surfer, whom we’ll call “the Big Kahuna.” For years, the Big Kahuna had made a decent living selling pot to customers such as Racer X. But as his client base aged, got married, had kids and smoked less weed, he began to worry about finding a real job. It didn’t help that hundreds of marijuana dispensaries had opened their doors in Los Angeles, offering high-quality marijuana to anyone with a doctor’s note.
After the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted in July 2007 to allow county residents to apply for state medical-marijuana ID cards, the Big Kahuna decided to form a legitimate, nonprofit cooperative that would supply medical marijuana to members of the club. He attended classes held by the California branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (better known by its acronym, NORML) and learned how to operate within the somewhat-fuzzy boundaries established in state law for the operation of such collectives. The Big Kahuna created a website for his club—the name of which he asked not to be revealed—and advertised in both OC Weekly and on various marijuana websites, such as www.weedmaps.com and www.weedtracker.com; Yoga Girl found the club through one of the latter two sites.
“I think it was weedmaps,” Yoga Girl says.
“We just looked for the closest one in our ZIP code,” adds Leo.
“Yeah, that’s how we found you,” Yoga Girl tells Racer X. She says she learned from a couple of her sorority sisters in Los Angeles how easy it is to obtain legal marijuana. There was a cannabis dispensary conveniently located down the street from her dormitory. “Now that I’m down here for the summer, I didn’t want to drive up to LA,” she says. “For safety reasons, too. If you have enough money for a card, having it delivered to you is definitely the way to go. You know, why not?”
I ask her what symptom she has that allows her to smoke marijuana. Yoga Girl pauses for a moment. “Uh, migraines?” she finally suggests. “I use it as a, um, sleep aid. Yeah.”
“Does it work?” I ask.
“Oh, yeah; yeah, it does,” she says, giggling.
Racer X laughs with delight as he zips up his briefcase and nods at the door. He’s in a rush to make it to his next delivery on schedule.
“Oh, yeah,” Racer X exclaims, waving goodbye to Yoga Girl. “Weed works, baby!”
* * *
An hour earlier, I’m sitting with Racer X and the Big Kahuna in a small room inside a two-bedroom house in Newport Beach. It’s the Big Kahuna’s home office, headquarters of his 6-year-old cannabis club, which he opened up to new members last November. An American flag hangs on the wall, and stacks of large, airtight plastic bins fill one of the room’s corners, all of them stuffed with 19 strains of marijuana with gloriously hyperbolic handles and descriptions such as Skywalker (a “tractor beam to Super Spacey!”) and Sour Diesel (“Good luck shutting up; Ramble alert!”). Two computers take up a wraparound desk in another corner of the room. Several open containers of marijuana lie on the few available flat surfaces.