Lifestyle, National

Road Trip: Los Angeles
Healing in the City of Angels
By: Sharon Letts Photos: Sharon Letts & Ophelia Chong of Stock Pot Images

Road Trip: Los Angeles 1

Los Angeles is the second-largest city in the country after New York City. It is a melting pot rich in ethnic diversity and the epicenter of the entertainment industry—the third richest industry in the world.

California was the first state in the union to legalize cannabis as medicine in 1996 and has been grappling with ordinances within its cities and counties ever since.

In 2012, the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban all dispensaries, but the rule was never enforced. In 2013, Measure D was voted in by 62.2%, allowing the 135 dispensaries that opened prior to 2007 to keep operating, while raising taxes to $60 for every $1,000 made.

At the time, it was said that more than 400 shops were operating within the city, many of them questionable in terms of their knowledge of medicine as dictated by the Compassionate Care Act. That said, with a population of 138 million, many believe 400 shops still aren’t enough to meet supply and demand for safe access.

#GLACAStrong


glacaFifth-generation Angelino Yamileth Bolanos created the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance in 2006 in an effort to bring solidarity and order to an unorganized industry.

“We founded GLACA to help create ordinances on how dispensaries should behave, because the city said they would not instate ordinances until 2010,” Bolanos said. “Those who were operating safely and were respectful of their neighbors needed a way to differentiate from profiteers who did not care about patient safety, or were otherwise problematic in their behavior.”

Since its inception, GLACA has presented its mission in front of the Los Angeles City Council, the California State Legislature, and the United States Congress.

Invitations to join GLACA come with guidelines: dispensaries are required to operate within local and state laws. The long overdue ordinances promised for 2010 were enacted in 2016, causing Measure D’s safety net to split wide open.

“GLACA has commissioned a poll to see where the voters are in terms of safe access,” Bolanos said. “We’ll share the results as we continue to work with the city and other interested groups to find the right solution for Los Angeles.”

Bolanos’ fight doesn’t stop with safe access and the implementation of ordinances. As a liver transplant patient, she fought hard in California this past year to grant patients on the organ donor list the right to medicate with cannabis.

Stopping to smell the roses

BudsRoses_SLetts (6)Aaron Justis is president of one of LA’s top dispensaries, Buds & Roses. He has sat on the Board of Directors of GLACA and lobbied relentlessly to help the masses understand the challenges of getting medicine to patients safely.

Opened in 2006, Buds & Roses is modern and organized. It’s shelves are stocked with many varieties of award-winning flower to smoke, including its coveted “Veganic” strains, which are void of animal derivatives.

General manager Brett Hartmann confirmed that the staff is educated and ready to offer alternatives to smoking if a patient is suffering from serious ailments. Alternatives include CBD-only caps, salves, and tinctures as well as THC-activated oils, lotions, and salves.

“Testing is important,” Hartmann said. “We also carry healthier medibles than most.”

Sex, meds, and rock ’n’ roll

DSC_0092Drag queen extraordinaire Laganja Estranja may be a Texan at heart, but she calls LA home. Buds & Roses is her neighborhood shop, and her favorite items are Hashbury extracts and Veganic Gorilla Glue #4.

Laganja’s latest favorite, The Deluxe, is made by Allie Butler of The Hepburns and is a large, top-shelf flower. Strong enough for several sessions, it is packaged in a reusable glass snuffing tube with a natural cork top.

Laganja usually performs at Micky’s West Hollywood, but she was scheduled in San Diego during this trip. With cannabis sex educator Ashley Manta in tow, we made the trek to San Diego together, focusing our conversation on sex and cannabis, of course.

The next day, Manta had a photo shoot at Hustler on Sunset Boulevard, which has hired Manta to give demonstrations in its shops. She gave an impromptu mini-demo of how a clitoris is stimulated, using a vulva made of fabric.

The self-proclaimed “sex geek” was in her element as all eyes were on her vulva, so to speak. “Using cannabis as an intimacy tool can add ease and pleasure to love-making,” she said. “Did you know the clitoris has legs?” Manta said to Hustler employees, moving her fingers slowly over the outer edges of the vulva.

There are many cannabis products on the market now geared towards intimacy. One of Manta’s favorites is Foria’s topical stimulating oil.

The next stop was Manta’s favorite playground, the Fun Factory, where the colorful state-of-the-art sex toys and stimulators found at Hustler are made.

Director of marketing Kristen Tribby said she welcomed the additional education from Manta on further stimulation with cannabis. “It’s given our work a whole new meaning and depth,” she said.

Infused fun in Hollywood

HerbalChef_MixologyFlaired_SLetts (41)The Herbal Chef, Chris Sayegh, is breaking new ground in the world of food infusions with micro-infused servings that leave diners feeling relaxed rather than stoned.

Business partner and Mixology Flaired owner Shea Lewis worked alongside Sayegh, making magic with micro-infused alcohol with the same theory—a little dab will do you.

At Lewis’ apartment—overlooking Hollywood Boulevard and Vine in the shadow of the old Schwab’s sign—a small gathering of friends enjoyed a traditional boil of shrimp, sausages, corn and potatoes with a twist: everything was infused in some way with cannabis and fresh herbs.

“For the boil, I poached the shrimp separately so I could medicate it,” Sayegh said. “I had to weigh the shrimp, then weigh the fats and liquid in the pan to get the correct dosing—around one milligram per shrimp. And I had to make sure it was homogenized by thoroughly mixing the fats.”

This type of measured dosing is not typical. Infused food at recreational gatherings often results in people ingesting several times more highly activated THC than they should, and it’s usually served with unhealthy portions of alcohol that can send someone to the emergency room or make them hug a toilet bowl while they watch shadow people.

Lewis’ infused cocktails were imaginative, delicious, and beneficial. An infused mocktail was created especially for Stock Pot Images owner Ophelia Chong.

“Shea made me a strawberry lemonade with basil,” she said. “It was made with fresh berries with a lemon twist and a spicy basil finish. It went perfect with the spicy shrimp.”

Chong said she enjoyed and appreciated the micro-dosed offering. “I felt a really nice mellow,” she said. “Finally, infused food that is responsible, and the dosing is about flavor—not getting wasted.” As ordinances are ironed out and patients look to a possible future of recreation in Los Angeles, those who are already delving into the many beneficial and fun properties of the plant are ready for the change.

“If we legalize cannabis for recreation in California, I have no issues with that,” Bolanos said. “But we need to make sure we take care of the patients who desperately need this plant for medicine. Too many have suffered for too long. Legalizing it will only help spread the word faster on its benefits.”

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