Montana: Hundreds Attend Event hoping to get State-Issued Medical Marijuana Card

January 25, 2010 – Billings, Montana – Hundreds of people waited for hours in Billings Sunday to meet with a doctor who might be willing to sign a statement vouching they doctorhave a health condition that should qualify them for a state-issued medical marijuana card.

The event, sponsored by the Montana Caregivers Network, followed similar clinics in Kalispell and Great Falls.

“Our primary purpose is to end suffering,” said Jason Christ, director of the organization and a medical marijuana patient suffering from pain in his lower intestine due to celiac disease.

In the last six months, the Missoula-based organization claims to have helped 5,500 people apply for medical marijuana cards. The organization usually charges $150 to $100 for a consultation with a doctor, but offers reduced rates for low-income people.

Brandishing a nearly 2-foot glass pipe, Christ told the large crowd waiting to see a doctor at the Billings Hotel & Convention Center on Mullowney Lane about his own frustrations trying to get approval to use marijuana as a medicine.

“It’s hard to find a doctor. It’s really difficult to learn anything about the law and find out what a plant is and how not to go to jail,” Christ said.

Under Montana law, people suffering from terminal conditions or chronic pain may qualify for a medical marijuana card. Anyone with the card issued by the Department of Public Health and Human Services may have six marijuana plants and an ounce of pot at any given time. A licensed caregiver may also legally possess six plants and an ounce of pot for each of their patients.

“Marijuana has a lot of medical uses and I think it’s time to finally recognize that it’s better than a lot of the prescriptions that people take,” said Carl Jensen, Jr., a criminal defense attorney from Great Falls.

Jensen offered two long question-and-answer sessions at Sunday’s event, fielding queries about everything from whether someone would be kicked out of federal housing for using medical marijuana or whether smoking pot to ease pain could be used against someone in a custody battle.

The Obama administration announced in October that it would not target people using pot in accordance with state medical laws for prosecution.

But the federal government does not recognize a legal use for marijuana, and Jensen said it was possible someone could be booted out of federal housing if their medical marijuana use was detected.

Many people who had made an appointment in advance had to wait for hours Sunday before meeting briefly with one of three doctors the Montana Caregivers Network said were available. Despite the long wait, most people said they were thankful for the clinic.

“Everyone was so helpful, and they don’t make you feel bad for wanting to take control and do something for yourself,” said Abbey Martin. Martin, 20, said that severe knee pain currently forces her to take as many as five Advil a day.

Many others declined to provide their names, citing fear of persecution by employers or judgment by neighbors and friends. Their maladies were diverse — from chronic pain to terminal cancer to migraines — but a number said they hoped marijuana would eliminate their need to use prescription drugs such as morphine or oxycodone for pain management.

“I feel like people’s fears are the biggest thing in the way,” said Katrina Farnum, a licensed caregiver who gave a presentation about how to care for marijuana plants at the clinic. “There’s been so much repression of people being able to choose their medication.”

No numbers were immediately available Sunday about how many people received a physician’s statement certifying they have a condition that should qualify them for a medical marijuana card. But not everyone walked away with the certification needed to apply for the card – a process they were told would likely take another two months.

“People are not just walking in off the street, getting in and walking out with a card. It really isn’t working like that,” said one woman who declined to be named because she does not want her employer to know she is seeking medical marijuana.

She said she had been told at the clinic to make an appointment with another doctor to have her feet examined and then submit more information.

By Kahrin Deines. Source.

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