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“Is this the weed line?” the woman walking up behind me asked. Turning around, I contained a laugh and gave her the only answer I could, “Yes.”

The long line wrapped around the corner to get into Peace of Mind, a Festus Main Street business that was hosting an event to qualify people for medical marijuana cards. The event was advertised in the Leader: “Simple. Legal. Medical.”

The ad sparked a discussion in the newsroom about what it would take to get a card, so I decided to check it out.

Armed with $100 cash, the amount the ad said I would need for “on site evaluation and certification,” and my state ID, I left work to get in line at 11:20 a.m. Sept. 6.

At the newspaper, we decided I would address the topic in a column format, rather than a news story, so I planned to go through the experience as a person rather than as a reporter asking questions.

But I would answer all questions posed to me with truth, nothing exaggerated.

The line was a collection of people of all ages – those in their 20s, like me, others in their middle years and some in their golden years. I saw a person on crutches and a few people with canes, but most of us didn’t look like we needed to see a doctor. The atmosphere was buoyant.

A person in front of me complained she wished she had gotten high before coming because it was taking so long. The line was abuzz with talk about what we would have to do or say to qualify.

Soon we were told we had to fill out a form and needed to score a 10 or above. As a healthy 23-year-old, I wasn’t sure how I might score.

But I do have trouble sleeping some nights, I have a stressful job and I have been training for a triathlon, resulting in body aches. Maybe?

After an hour and a half, an iPad with an electronic form was passed to me. I was not asked why I thought I might need medical marijuana. Instead, the questions focused on basic human reactions to life. It seemed to me that any truth-telling adult would qualify.

In the past two weeks, the form asked – often using a scale of 0-3; zero being not sure and 3 being every day – had we been bothered by the following: feeling nervous, on edge, anxious; not being able to stop or control worrying; worrying too much about different things; having trouble relaxing; being so restless it’s hard to sit still; becoming easily annoyed or irritable; feeling afraid that something awful might happen.

As you answered the questions, you were kept apprised of your progress in reaching the required 10.

The last question: “How difficult have these problems made it for you to work, care for yourself, or get along with people?” We answered that one on a scale of 0 being not at all and 3 being extremely.

I scored a 12, which meant I qualified. As far as I could tell, so did everyone else. Of the 100 people or so gathered when I was there, I didn’t see anyone turned away.

No doctor yet. I was called to a table and I asked the woman there if she was the doctor. Nope, I’d see the doctor during the next part, a class.

I showed the woman my state ID, gave over my $100 and she handed me a sheet that said “Congratulations” at the top and gave me information about how to apply with the state of Missouri for my card.

I was also given the first page of my physician certification form. I would have to take the class to get the second page.

The people in line were congratulating each other on their progress toward being able to use marijuana legally. It felt like a celebration – the first time in my life to be congratulated on getting a prescription.

The class had an even more festive atmosphere. Everyone was cheering and clapping, and the doctor congratulated us. I felt like I had won a grand prize or was graduating from college all over again.

The doctor gave us information on how to use our “medicine.” I was surprised when she recommended vaping marijuana instead of smoking it, comparing smoking marijuana to eating burnt salad. This was the same day it was announced that vaping tobacco had been linked to three deaths.

She explained the different methods for using medical marijuana (pills, lotions or the plant itself) and how to administer it throughout the day safely while still being able to complete life tasks.

She compared the certification card to a library card, noting that different methods and products produce different results, and stated her opinion that medical marijuana can be very helpful and that it had been prohibited in the past to boost the pharmaceutical industry.

Leader reporters on several beats have been writing for months about medical marijuana, which was approved by voters in November 2018. Local people have applied for state licenses for operations and facilities, and our towns and Jefferson County government are at work on developing local regulations.

Just like elsewhere in the country, the business will be a moneymaker, for the providers and for government coffers.

If I chose to take the next step and apply for my card with the state, I would pay more fees. The card itself would require another $25 and another $100 to cultivate marijuana legally.

The card authorizes purchase of up to 4 ounces a month and permission to carry a two months’ supply. A person can cultivate up to 18 plants.

As of Sept. 6, the state had approved 9,195 medical marijuana cards, reported Lisa Cox, communications director of Missouri’s Health and Senior Services.

Medical marijuana, however, will not be available until licenses for providers are approved, expected by the end of 2019. The deadline to apply was Aug. 19.

For the record, even though I qualified, I don’t think I have a medical need for marijuana.

It makes me wonder about those nearly 10,000 people who already have been approved by the state.

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