Several months ago I was at Target, pushing a cart up the pet aisle. I took a step and my left leg kind of seized up. It went weak and a sharp pain shot through it.
I ended up at the ER that night, when it got worse and worse until I couldn’t walk.
A CAT scan later, I was diagnosed with arthritis in both of my hips.
After about a week the pain abated. I went to an orthopedic doctor who confirmed what the ER doctor told me and told me that some day I might need hip replacement, but not right now.
And then I was fine. Until this week, when I woke up one morning so stiff I could barely get out of bed. I’ve had a red-hot pain in my left hip for several days.
I live in a state where marijuana is legal, medically and recreationally. So there’s a dispensary two blocks from my house. Because I’m an urban soccer mom who has a life-long fear of getting in trouble and even though I’d rather take marijuana in some form than an opiate for pain, I’ve driven by that dispensary for days without going in.
Plus, I won’t even drink wine in front of my kids. I had, let’s call them qualms, about the whole endeaver.
I needed moral support.
My brother has used a CBD topical to help with inflammation that’s the result of an old ankle injury and he’s happy with the results, so I asked him to come with me and he did.
Here is what I expected.
Some kind of cross between the liquor store next to Little Caesar’s Pizza where I’m asked for a dollar for gas every time I stop for a $5 hot and ready — and a hookah lounge. Maybe a little Willie Wonka thrown in for good measure.
I thought I’d walk into a dimly-lit room full of stoners blowing smoke, maybe some blacklight posters.
Clearly, I thought I was going to time travel on my way through the door back to my 1980s adolescence. And, I suppose, I thought I was going to be as out of place in a marijuana dispensary in 2018 as I felt in high school in 1988.
I also had a vague idea that I might walk into a room full of big glass jars full of marijuana gummy bears and lemon drops just waiting to lure some poor unexpecting kid to start a habit. (I’ve seen the billboards!)
Here’s what happened.
The dispensary had a very clean, minimalist, clinical ambiance. There were three levels of entrance. First a lobby where we showed our IDs and were logged into the system. Then a waiting room where we took a number and did what you do in a room like that — waited. Then the dispensary iteself, where we had a woman who was designated to help just us while we were there.
No one was smoking weed. Since I really did not know what to expect, I’ll let you know that there was only a very mild smell of marijuana in the building. The employees were young and hip, with tattoos and bright smiles. It was interesting to me that every employee we were helped by (three of them) was a woman.
The woman who sold me CBD balm for my poor arthritic joints was professional and kind. She was patient with me while I figured out what would help me best. She didn’t make me feel weird when I told her I wanted relief without getting stoned. She didn’t roll her eyes at my questions about how a topical balm can penetrate all the way to my hip joint.
Just in case you’re curious, there were no Candy Man jars full of brightly colored edibles and there is no chance anyone younger than 21 could get past the first or second layer of entrance, much less into the dispensary.
They’d have a way easier time pocketing a wine cooler from 7–11 or a beer from the fridge at home.
In the end, I spent $42 for this:
In case you’re thinking about using a topical for arthritis pain.
I did feel some relief right away and I woke up less stiff from the first use. I don’t know how much of that is as a result of the lotion. There was a warming sensation, so it’s possible that any warming cream (Icy Hot, etc) would have had the same effect.
I did not have any psychoactive reaction that I’m aware of. I did sleep really well for the three nights I’ve used it.
It smells good. My daughter thinks it smells like the Burts Bees balm we use for her eczema. It does — it’s got a bees wax base. It has an herby, earthy smell that’s very pleasant.
I really have no idea how much of the relief I found was due to a placebo effect or whether I could have found equal effect from a less expensive topical cream. To be honest, I don’t care about the placebo thing. As long as it works. I’ve used other topical preparations before without much benefit.
The jar I bought will last me at least three or four months. Long enough to let me decide if it’s something that will really help.
Some things you might not know (I didn’t.)
- Marijuana Dispensaries are cash businesses. No ATM or credit cards. Brings cash.
- You’ll need an ID to get in the door.
- The taxes are HIGH. But, at least where I went, they give you the total price including the taxes. That helps.
- There is no wandering around and browsing unnoticed. You’ll be assigned a sales person when you’re ushered in past the waiting room and they will be very attentive. One attendant per customer.
- You can buy products that offer the benefit without the psychoactive effects of smoking a joint. You don’t have to smoke at all. There are topicals like I bought or edibles that are just what they sound like: you eat them. (Even gummies and lemon drops — just not displayed like a candy store.)
- I was glad to have someone with more experience with me this time, but I won’t feel weird about going alone next time.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nationand the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.