In 2009, Iowa State Rep. Clel Baudler, a Republican from Greenfield, told me that he was thinking of fibbing his way into getting a medical marijuana card the next time he visited California. I laughed, but it turns out he wasn't joking. In October, the 71-year-old former state trooper and ardent drug warrior sent a letter to his constituents detailing how he'd visited the notoriously pot-friendly Golden State, falsely told a doctor that he suffered from depression and hemorrhoids, and scored a license to inhale. (Read Josh Harkinson's story on just how easy it is to get a pot card in California.)
Why the covert ops? "In essence, I got my prescription to show how asinine it would be to legalize 'medical marijuana,'" wrote Baudler, who opposes a proposal to pass a medical pot law in his home state. "Some of the states that have legalized 'medical marijuana' are now having trouble 'putting the toothpaste back in the tube.' They are attempting to backpedal, which is proving extremely difficult."
Yet Baudler might have to do some backpedaling of his own. Under California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996, anyone who "fraudulently represents a medical condition or fraudulently provides any material misinformation to a physician" can be tossed in jail for up to six months and fined up to $1,000. Baulder's defense: He'll gladly appear in front of an ethics board because the "oriental 'doctor'" who "only spoke broken English" probably isn't a licensed physician.
Here's an excerpt from his letter, which kind of has the feel of a cult movie from 1936 about pot smoking:
The next day, Saturday, I asked my son to take me on Redondo Beach, leave me and I would give him a call when I was done. He refused to do it stating that I would probably get in trouble. He said, "I'll take you to Venice Beach. It's weirder," and to put it bluntly, he was right.
We got there, saw a large green cross over a doorway, found a parking spot, and walked up to The Green Cure Distribution Center. I rang the doorbell, someone looked out a window in the door and let us in. I explained to them that I wanted "medical marijuana," and was admitted immediately by an armed security guard that had to weigh close to 110 pounds. He had ten earrings on and about his face and ears, and (in my mind) way over the legal limit on tattoos. I told him I was from Iowa, and he explained I did not need to live in California to get a prescription, but I would need some type of paper indicating I had an address in California i.e. water bill, bank statement, etc. After our meeting, he scheduled an appointment for me at the Inglewood Health Services Center.
My son and I watched the distribution center for quite some time before leaving. No one was seen going in, but the people coming out were 35 or under in various stages of drug intoxication (high). We went to the "health center" in an abandoned manufacturing building/office. I walked in, was asked for my identification at which point I produced my Iowa drivers license. I was asked for $45, handed them a $50 bill and they gave me 5 Susan B. Anthony gold dollars and asked me to fill out a six-page document which would take approximately 30-45 minutes. I finished this document in under eight minutes, and the only things I lied about were hemorrhoids, depression and I state that I did not have health insurance.
I was immediately seen by the "doctor." He was in a large office, furnished by two folding chairs, and old tin desk, and a card table. There was nothing on the walls, and two windows with no curtains. I spent 15 minutes with this "doctor" and six of those were used attempting to overcome the language barrier between us (he was an oriental "doctor" and only spoke broken English.) I was then given my prescription, he signed it, I signed it and I walked out.
Regardless of your opinion of Baudler's antics, his argument is a red herring. No credible advocates of medical marijuana in Iowa are calling for a system as permissive as California's (check out our recent feature on ties between California's "hempreneurs" and Wall Street). The last time I spoke to Iowa's pharmacy board chairman, he told me outright: "We're not going to screw this up the way California has."