It's Wednesday night at the Sunset Marquis, a Hollywood hotel where Springsteen, Jagger, Rod Stewart, Aerosmith and most other self-respecting rockers stay when they're in town. We're sitting by the pool waiting for Stevie Wonder to perform and wondering exactly how many TV sets have, over the years, crash-landed in our immediate vicinity. LA being LA, no one's actually swimming.
My friend, who works in the music business and got us invites to this bash, opens his wallet to reveal a card containing his name, address, and the signature of a doctor. It cost about $100, he says, and for the past decade has helped him purchase and consume marijuana throughout California. Soon, however, it may become worthless. A jury at the US District Court in LA is currently hearing the case of Charles Lynch, the owner of a shop in Morro Bay called Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers.
Mr Lynch is on trial because his store sells just one product: cannabis. If found guilty, he could get five years. The case revolves around a single point. Under Proposition 215, a California state law which, in 1996, legalised weed for "medicinal purposes," Mr Lynch claims to have been operating legally.
The cops see things differently: they say marijuana is still banned under federal law, which is superior to state law, thereby making the defendant a common drug dealer. As ever in a test case, the trial's implications will be felt beyond the courtroom.
Should Lynch be found guilty, it will spell disaster for laid-back Angelenos and the mini-industry of doctors who are paid to perscribe them marijuana for spurious reasons such as "anxiety." Other pot retailers, in places such as Venice, will be forced out of business.
It will also be a spanner in the works of Hollywood, which is about to enjoy a revival of the "stoner movie." Pot is constantly smoked on the TV shows Entourage and Weeds, and with a bong-puffing Ben Kingsley just a hit in The Wackness, the soft drug is firmly back in vogue.
Today, Seth Rogen's marijuana comedy Pineapple Express hits cinemas; soon, Rhys Ifans will star in a biopic of Howard Marks. So while Charles Lynch stands in the dock, most of Hollywood is secretly praying that he's acquitted. This town needs its pot smokers, because the film industry's next big trend depends on it.
Bourgeois crisis of the week: Santa Monica's chattering classes have lost a favourite hang-out, after Starbucks decided to close 600 US branches. The chain blames global economic turmoil, but perhaps it should learn from competitors and diversify: my local café recently went into partnership with one of LA's ubiquitous law firms. The sign outside offers: "coffee and a counsel."