Human Collective in Oregon to Link Medical Marijuana Users with Growers

August 20, 2010 – Tigard, Oregon — In an unassuming, mostly unmarked building space off Pacific Highway, Sarah Bennett is trying something different.

Earlier this year, Bennett opened Human Collective, a nonprofit organization that aims to connect card-holding patients in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program with licensed growers for quicker access to the medicine. The clinic also offers a program where patients can receive small amounts of donated marijuana for free.

“I believe that we’re one of a kind right now,” Bennett said. “There isn’t any other place like this.”

Under state law, licensed growers are allowed to possess only what’s needed for their clients, and no more. The idea behind the free program, Bennett said, is to keep any excess marijuana from being needlessly destroyed or, in other cases, ending up in the wrong hands. It gives growers a safe outlet if their plants produce more medicine than their patients require, she added.

“It’s staying within the hands of those who are authorized to have access to it,” she said.

That’s hard to quantify for Tigard in such a short time since Human Collective opened, said Tigard Police spokesman Jim Wolf. But police are aware of the new clinic, he said.

Many patients don’t have the ability to grow their own medical marijuana, Bennett said, which can take three to six months. That’s where Human Collective comes in.

Since the clinic opened in April, its patient membership had climbed into the 70s by last week, said Bennett, founder and executive director. That number continues to rise, she said. Each patient must identify a personal grower under the law, and patients can choose themselves as the grower. Human Collective’s model provides patients access to a multitude of quality growers and other resources, Bennett said.

Human Collective doesn’t allow access to anyone not enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program. A sign at the clinic’s entrance reads, “This establishment is for OMMP cardholders only.”

The vast majority of patients who walk through Human Collective’s door are honest, according to Bennett, and genuinely need the help.

“They don’t want to be criminals,” she said. “They don’t want to have a bad reputation for using alternative medicine.”

Daniel Davies counts himself in that category. The Tigard resident said he recently began coming to Human Collective to find better access to medical marijuana. He listed bipolar disorder and cleft palate among the conditions he’s been treated for.

“A lot of my body is pretty messed up,” Davies said.

Davies said he appreciates the atmosphere and knowledgeable volunteers at the Tigard clinic.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. People occasionally walk in hoping to cash in on medical marijuana they don’t need, Bennett said, but volunteers have learned to spot red flags.

Visitors looking to abuse the system may ask for an unreasonably large amount of marijuana, Bennett said. They may get caught feigning a physical ailment, having approached the clinic without showing it before. Or they may try to rush the process as quickly as possible.

In those cases, staff can –and do — make a “judgment call” to not allow access to marijuana, Bennett said.

Human Collective operates primarily on its membership fees, which cost $350 per year for its first 100 members, paid upfront. After 100 members are signed up, the annual fee rises to $365, or a dollar per day. Members can then access medical marijuana through MedExpress, a sort of flex spending account used to reimburse growers that can also be withdrawn by patients at any time.

Existing Oregon law prohibits the clinic or any licensed grower from making a profit on a marijuana transaction. Human Collective reimburses its growers for the exact amount it cost to produce their product — paid through members — each time. Marijuana prices vary widely, Bennett said, falling anywhere between $1 to $15 per gram, depending on the strain or type.

Human Collective operates without a payroll, functioning with an all-volunteer staff of about eight people.

Jaime Angel attested to the Tigard clinic’s uniqueness. She manages the Portland office of Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse, or MAMA, a nonprofit that helps people register for the state medical marijuana program. Angel said clinics related to the program are still rare, and only recently began emerging. The state program formed in 1998.

Bennett said she’s seen people with very difficult, painful situations in the short time her clinic has been open. She described the “phenomenal” feeling that comes from seeing patients find relief from debilitating health conditions and often damaging treatments. Most are simply looking for help, she said.

“Everybody who comes in here wants to work within the boundaries of the law, and they want to do the things that are right,” Bennett said. “And we’re just trying to help show … this is how things go right.” By Eric Florip. Source.

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