Dispensary owner and marijuana activist Yamileth Bolanos is a three-time cancer survivor and endured a liver transplant. The doctors gave her medicine for the pain but it didn’t work. “I was a prisoner in my own home for four years,” Bolanos told us. She could barely get out of bed because the pain was so bad. But then one of her friends recommended she smoke a joint. From that point on, she was a believer. “I believe in cannabis because it’s given me my life back,” she told us at her dispensary in Hollywood.

She operates one of the roughly 130 medical marijuana shops still allowed to exist under new regulations passed by the city of Los Angeles last year. Bolanos had a store a block away from her house but was forced to move in order to comply with Proposition D. But despite these new regulations, there are still hundreds of pot shops operating illegally around Los Angeles. “Coming home from work every day I drive past so many illegal dispensaries; it’s not right” Bolanos said.

In the future Bolanos hopes to see state-wide regulations put in place to clear up confusion caused by the existing system. Any beyond that, she is convinced California will pass recreational marijuana use by 2016, following Colorado and Washington’s lead. “Colorado’s got it right, man,” Bolanos said with a smile.

Stay tuned for the rest of her story and much more on California’s broken medical marijuana system on an upcoming episode of AMERICA.

Credit: Lindsay Garfield, Alcione Gonzalez

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