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A Medical Controversy (parts 4-6 of a 6-part week-long report)

By bananaskin, Jul 15, 2010 | Updated: Jul 15, 2010 | |
  1. bananaskin
    Marijuana treatment comes with pros, cons for patients

    Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a weeklong series examining the facets of medical marijuana.

    In 2000, Colorado voters approved marijuana use for medical purposes and provided protection for patients and caregivers who grow a limited number of plants.

    Amendment 20 protects those who use marijuana to treat “debilitating diseases,” which includes cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS; cachexia; severe pain; severe nausea; seizures, including those that are characteristic of epilepsy; or persistent muscle spasms, including multiple sclerosis.

    Not every physician in the state is willing to recommend marijuana for treatment of any disease.

    “Controversy with medical treatments is not uncommon,” said Dr. Victoria King, chief medical officer of St. Thomas More Hospital, in a statement. “However, concerns about the use of marijuana as a treatment include quality control, lack of standardized processing and possible long-term health risks.”

    Marijuana contains several compounds that are reported to have medical benefits. Cannabinoids — as the beneficial compounds are called — can stimulate appetites, treat nausea and vomiting, treat muscle spasms and have the effects of a pain killer.

    However, the WebMD website also lists negative effects of the active ingredient, THC, which is quickly absorbed into the blood stream when marijuana is smoked. These affects include rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased rate of breathing, red eyes, dry mouth, increased appetite and slowed reaction time.

    “From the legal perspective, although we recognize that some of our patients may have been prescribed this treatment, the Colorado law does not allow marijuana to be used outside the home,” King said. “In accordance with this state law, St. Thomas More Hospital policy requires the patient to leave marijuana at home and not bring it to the facility. Alternative medication will be provided when patients are in the hospital as required by their condition.”

    Cañon City chiropractor Dr. Joe Ashton said he has had several patients approach him about a recommendation for marijuana, and he has said no.

    “I can’t imagine it’s good for you,” Ashton said. “Chiropractic is drug-free care.”

    Ashton said if there is a medical benefit in marijuana, we should just take that out of the plant, put it in a pill and sell it in the pharmacy.

    He said marijuana may provide pain relief, but chiropractic can provide similar relief by repairing damage to the spine. If a patient still needs helps, they should visit their doctor.

    “Your body heals itself,” Ashton said.

    Rachel Alexander
    The Daily Record
    Publish Date: 7/1/2010



    Local businesses explain what they offer to patients

    Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a weeklong series examining the facets of medical marijuana.

    With state laws shifting, medical marijuana dispensaries are faced with choices in determining how, or if, they are going to continue to do business.

    “We’re just trying to get on board,” said Jeremy Johnson, owner of Rocky Mountain Cannabis in Cañon City. “I will follow all laws.”

    “We opened the business according to what everyone else was doing at the time,” said Mary Dooley, owner of Earth Medicines in Fremont County.

    Dooley said she and her partner, Kevin Griffith, hope to work through the licensing process if the state and county do not make it too difficult.

    There are three dispensaries in the county and one in Cañon City. Moratoriums against new dispensaries are in place in Cañon City and Florence and temporary zoning regulations are in place in the county.

    Biker Town in Penrose refused an offer to be interviewed for this project. Heritage Organics, also in Penrose, did not return phone calls requesting an interview.

    Earth Medicines opened in December 2009.

    “It was a new area, something that hadn’t been done before,” Dooley said. “We knew it was good for people medically.”

    Griffith said the center has close to 400 patients suffering from various maladies including fibromyalgia, arthritis, cancer and diabetes.

    “There are some (patients) that are in really bad shape,” Dooley said. “We have a lot of people who depend on us.”

    In order to be treated, legally, at any dispensary patients must have documentation of their diagnosis from a doctor and a license from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    “We keep a copy in our files,” Dooley said. “We get to know people who come in on a regular basis. We don’t sell big amounts at a time.”

    There are two main strains of marijuana sold in most dispensaries: Indica, which provides pain relief, and Sative, which is energizing, Griffith said. The strains can be combined in various ways depending on patients’ needs. Earth Medicines carries nearly 40 strains.

    Various types help sleep, give energy, take away pain, calm lungs in asthma, joint pain or depression, Dooley said.

    The dispensary also sells smoking paraphernalia, vaporizers, marijuana edibles, tinctures, pills and tea bags.

    The store front, located at 3055 E. U.S. 50, Suite G, requires ringing a door bell to enter. The product room is closed off to anyone who does not have a license. However, those without licenses may come into the front room and purchase the vitamins, incense and other items for sale there.

    “Anyone can come in and talk to us,” Griffith said.

    “We have never ever let anybody smoke on the premises,” Dooley said. “We just thought it was inappropriate.”

    Rocky Mountain Cannabis opened in November 2009 on Main Street in Cañon City. Johnson, who has previously worked in human services and as a social worker, said he opened the store to “help those in need.”

    Johnson said he has seen the health benefits of medical marijuana and reducing the need for pharmaceuticals.

    Rocky Mountain Cannabis has between 400 and 500 patients, mainly from Fremont County, Johnson said.

    “We carry a variety of strains,” Johnson said. “We want to find the medication that works best for the patient.”

    Along with the marijuana product, Rocky Mountain also provides edibles, product to be vaporized or smoked, tinctures, rubs and lotions.

    The dispensary also has an educational marijuana garden so the owners may show patients where their medication comes from.

    Johnson said he opened Rocky Mountain Cannabis with his own funds and hopes to use profits from the dispensaries for nonprofit work in the local community and around the world

    The Daily Record
    Publish Date: 7/2/2010



    Klingbeil prefers using marijuana to dull the pain

    Editor’s Note: This is the final part in a weeklong series examining the facets of medical marijuana.

    There are 21,625 registered medical marijuana patients in the state as of Oct. 31, 2009, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is tasked by statute with issuing medical marijuana licenses.

    Katy Klingbeil, 36, of Buena Vista, is one of those patients.

    Klingbeil suffers from Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy, FHS. The disease has caused her to lose muscle in her upper arms, shoulders, jaw and back.

    “I’ve known about it for 15 years,” she said. “I was a normal standing human for 21 years.”

    Klingbeil, who now spends most of her time in a wheelchair because of the sway in her back caused by her loss of muscle, went to college on a full-ride ski scholarship.

    She said she had pneumonia and when she recovered, she could not lift her arms. Now, she has trouble carrying items and walking is painful.

    Klingbeil said if she were to stay on pharmaceuticals, her next step would be oxycotin — a move she is not willing to make.

    “I’ve seen people on oxy, and I don’t want to act like that,” she said. “I don’t want to hurt, and I don’t want to sit on the couch like a zombie.”

    Now, with marijuana, which she said dulls the pain, Klingbeil is on one vicodin a day.

    When she was younger, she said, Klingbeil used marijuana recreationally. Now, she smokes it, eats it and uses it as a tincture.

    In 2000, Colorado voters approved Amendment 20 providing protection for patients and caregivers who grow a limited number of plants. Those suffering from cachexia, cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, muscle spasms, seizures, severe pain and severe nausea qualify for licenses under the amendment.

    Klingbeil and her partner, Ed Norton, run Alpine Colorado Co-op, acting as caregivers to 16 patients in Fremont, Chaffee, Park and Lake counties.

    They started out as caregivers for a few friends and the co-op developed as a way to keep costs down and quality up.

    Because no doctors in the area will make the recommendations, Klingbeil and Norton set their patients up with a doctor via Oovoo — an online video conferencing method — to reduce their need to travel. They send the doctor the clients’ medical records, and he conducts a personal interview with them.

    They also teach those who want to know, how to grow their own marijuana, buy the excess, and sell back into the co-op.

    “We respect law enforcement,” Klingbeil said. “It’s nice to feel like you can do it without breaking the law.”

    Rachel Alexander
    The Daily Record
    Publish Date: 7/3/2010



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