Medical Marijuana: How It Works In California

Patient Describes Health Benefits; Sheriff Decries Effects

May 1, 2010 – DES MOINES, Iowa — With medicinal marijuana legal in California and 13 other states, some wonder whether a recent recommendation by the state pharmacy board will mean that Iowa will be next. Iowa lawmakers could bring up the idea in the next legislative session.  Emily Price and photojournalist Jesse Landolt went to California to see what it’s like in a state that lets people walk a street and legally pick up some pot for their medicine cabinets.  In Venice Beach, the buildings are almost as colorful as the people.”Get legal today,” said Jordan Kurtz-Hannah, who encourages beachgoers to visit his employer, Canna Safe. It’s one of several clinics in Venice Beach that lets people in pain visit a doctor for a recommendation to acquire medicinal marijuana.”I pled my case and told them how I really need it,” Kurtz-Hannah said. He said he’s been using marijuana since he was 16.”I skateboard a lot and I hurt my ankle and I never went to the doctor to get it checked out and it bumps a lot,” he said. “So chronic pain, there you go.”

Most people associate medicinal marijuana with people suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis or chronic migraines, not an ankle injury. Price wanted to find out whether a pregnant reporter from Iowa could also get a recommendation for marijuana. A woman working the counter at the 420 Doctor’s Office checked with the doctor about her back pain. The clinic said she was too far along in her pregnancy, but would have written a recommendation to treat nausea a few weeks earlier. In just the first few months of the year, nearly 8,000 people in California did get prescriptions for medicinal marijuana. Many of the customers went to The Farmacy, one of 1,000 dispensaries in Los Angeles alone that have opened since the state legalized medicinal marijuana in 1996. General manager Bill Leahy said his facility offers 48 kinds of cannabis, each offering a different treatment for different types of pain. He said The Farmacy may not feel like a real pharmacy, but it tries to operate like one.”We have two chemists and two pharmacists with us,” Leahy said. Californians must present their medicinal marijuana identification card when they walk in. The card gets scanned into a computer that does background checks. Once past the gate, the pot possibilities are endless. One gram costs anywhere between $25 and $75. For most people, that dose lasts just one day. If that price is too steep, another option is edible cannabis.”These are our gelatos where we made ice creams that were enhanced,” Leahy said. It’s has also been added to butter, brownies, olive oil and juice.”The stigma of the negative needs to be taken away,” Leahy said. “It is truly a miracle plant.”

Margo Bouer, 74, said she has enjoyed the benefits of medicinal marijuana since getting her card. The nursing home resident and retired nurse was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 20 years ago. She said she was one of the first to get a card, renews it every year, and smokes marijuana every day.”I feel like I have something that will, one thing, that will keep me from being in an acute, ready-to-end-it-all stage,” Bouer said.”When they enacted the law, I don’t think there was anybody opposed to helping somebody in that kind of medical condition,” said Long Beach, Calif., Police Chief Jim McDonnell. He said that for all the good that has come to people like Bouer, it has also brought bad things to cities like his. “We’ve seen organized crime groups taking over dispensaries,” he said. “We’re basically legalizing marijuana by doing this, because everybody who wants to have access to it can have it. “Next month, many Los Angeles dispensaries will be forced to shut down after a long, drawn-out legal battle with the city ends. It’s expected to leave just 137 dispensaries in Los Angeles.

California’s kinks and success stories can now be a guide to Iowa lawmakers.”The abuses of this we’ve seen, I think, you could write books on,” McDonnell said.”I think it’s morally wrong not to help someone,” said Bouer. While Iowa debates the future of medicinal marijuana in the state, lawmakers may find that the decision has already been made.”It kind of shocked me,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy. “It appeared that the code already authorizes medical marijuana (and it was) passed by the legislature years and years ago.” Source.

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