Monday, August 17, 2009
Southern Oregon Medical Marijuana News
New Medford smoke shop serves medical marijuana patients
Store provides clinics, networking and supplies
By Teresa Thomas
For the Tidings
August 14, 2009
A local woman's struggle with arthritis and muscle spasms compelled her
to start a business that would educate others on the benefits, growth
and consumption of medical marijuana.
Cynthia Townsley Willis, 52, and two partners whom she declined to
identify opened the Medical Marijuana Patient Services Smoke Shop, 1252
W. McAndrews Road, Medford, in late February. The shop is one of seven
in Southern Oregon that caters to the needs of medical marijuana
"I kind of formed the shop in self-defense so patients could ask for
their smoke needs," said Willis, who has an Oregon Medical Marijuana
Program card and is a registered caregiver, which allows her to possess
marijuana for other card holders.
"It's a huge need and the need is for people to be educated enough
to be self-sufficient or to be able to find a provider," she said.
Willis' shop provides networking between patients and providers, books,
clinics, pipes (95 percent are locally made), bongs, vaporizers, rolling
paper and Bob Marley tapestries. The store is open to the public and she
cards only for age for retail products. The business has grown to more
than 400 members who pay $20 a year to receive discounts on clinics,
retail items and classes.
Prior to opening the shop, Willis volunteered for the THC Foundation and
VoterPower, an organization group that advocates reforming marijuana
laws. She also served as assistant manager at VoterPower for about two
years. Willis opened the shop after Puff's Smoke Shop moved to Ashland.
The shop is licensed for commercial use with the city of Medford, and it
is registered as a public benefit nonprofit with the Oregon Secretary of
Willis said the shop is staffed with volunteers who are OMMP
cardholders. She said she only works with cardholders because they are
able to better understand the needs of patients.
Willis has been a medical marijuana patient for seven years. Her health
problems were the result of being "the family rag doll," she
said. The marijuana alleviates her muscle spasms, and she often takes it
in capsule form before she goes to bed to help her sleep. Willis also
found that mixing it with rubbing alcohol and applying it to her joints
and muscles minimized the pain.
"Medical marijuana, if used responsibly, will not cut the pain but
cuts the edge off," she said.
People in business who use medical marijuana often prefer the capsule
form because it lets "your body be relaxed and out of pain but still
lets you use your mind," Willis said.
Willis said the patients who come to her shop range from 13 to 92 years
"In seven years, I have helped license 7,000 people" by helping
prepare their paperwork and teaching them how to navigate the system,
The shop hosts clinics about once a month. At the clinic a doctor is
available to review health history and sign the OMMP applications. Many
people don't feel comfortable going through their regular health-care
provider, so they visit the clinic, where they know they will find a
sympathetic physician, Willis said.
Willis said she is a caregiver for about five people. As a caregiver,
she said, she frequently house-sits for growers, helps bake marijuana
into foods if the cardholder is unable to and delivers marijuana when
needed. Caregivers also can be a patient's grower under the law. Willis'
husband, Larry, is registered as her caregiver.
"In case he takes my car and it has medicine (marijuana) in it, he's
covered," she said.
Willis said she is unable to grow her own plants because her backyard is
too small and she obtains marijuana through local growers.
Lt. Mike Dingeman of Oregon State Police's drug enforcement section said
there are 15,016 grow sites registered in the state. Willis' business
works closely with less than a dozen Southern Oregon providers, she
"I've kinda been a matchmaker so to speak," she said. "I
need to make sure the provider is someone I have faith and trust
Under Oregon law, each grower can provide marijuana only for four
cardholders, which may include himself. Only six mature plants and 18
seedlings or starts are allowed per patient, and they must be grown at
one location that has been registered with the state.
"The patient, caregiver and grower may possess in combination up to
24 ounces of medical marijuana (per patient)," said Medford police
Deputy Chief Tim George.
Prior to amendments made to the law in 2006, a cardholder was limited to
three ounces. Now Oregon has one of the highest possession limits of
states allowing medical marijuana use, Dingeman said.
Willis uses about one ounce a week, three and a half pounds a year. She
said the law makes it difficult for patients with more serious health
problems such as cancer, who need nine to 13 pounds of high-quality
marijuana a year.
"They spend every penny in a fight to live," she said. "They
also need someone who can bake for them because some can absolutely not
inhale. It must be edible or in a capsule."
An experienced outside grower will get eight to 13 pounds per plant, and
a top-notch inside grower can get up to two pounds from a plant, Willis
The purchasing and selling of marijuana is illegal, according to state
law. A patient may offer to pay for some of the growing costs, but not
for the time, labor or product.
"The electric bill for an inside provider can cost about $500 a
month," said Willis. "For a two-patient grow it costs about
$10,000 to have a successful grow."
Patients will pay about $200 to $250 an ounce to meet the grower's
"On the street you're looking at $400," Willis said. "Some
patients continue to get it on the black market because it's someone
they can trust."
Willis said she gives about 10 percent of her own marijuana to
cardholders who don't have immediate access to their own. Growers often
donate the bud trimmings to Willis, who sorts the trims and gives them
to patients in need.
Sometimes the shop serves as the middle ground between patient and
provider. Providers often will drop off the marijuana at the shop, and
the patient will pick it up there, she said.
"He (the provider) has my word that it gets to the patient
unadulterated, " Willis said.
Medical marijuana use is not easy for law enforcement to monitor because
of all the "fogginess" in the law, and some people take
advantage of the fogginess, said Dingeman. Any questionable situations
are resolved on a case-by-case basis, he said.
"It's hard to come up with black-and-white answers to the act,"
"There has been a huge frustration with all of us in law enforcement
when it comes to medical marijuana," George said in an e-mail.
"There is a lot more marijuana in the marketplace now, and there are
a number of individuals that are using it as a way to unlawfully grow
and sell weed. I can agree that there are folks that may benefit from it
as a medicine, but it needs to be controlled and dispensed as such and
not have the floodgates opened as now."
George said police have not been called to Willis' shop because of
marijuana or anything connected to it.
Willis said aspects of the law are frustrating for users, too, such as
having to pay $100 every year to renew a card. She also said users are
treated like second-class citizens, are unable to pass a urine analysis
and are considered illegal if they cross the border into a state that
doesn't allow medical marijuana.
"We are always having to justify ourselves," Willis said.
----------sidebar- --------- ---------
Oregon Medical Marijuana Act
Approved by voters in November 1998, the law permits people suffering
from debilitating medical conditions confirmed by a doctor to use small
amounts of marijuana without penalty. After completing the Oregon
Medical Marijuana program card application and providing proof of
ongoing illness and a doctor's signature, the patient, a caregiver and
the marijuana provider or grower are issued cards.
A quarterly survey done in July by the Department of Human Services
revealed that 20,300 patients are cardholders. Jackson County has the
third highest number of cardholders, 1,931, surpassed only by Lane and
Multnomah counties. Since January 2006, the number of cardholders has
doubled, said Lt. Mike Dingeman of Oregon State Police's drug
---------end sidebar----- --------- --
Reach intern Teresa Thomas at 776-4464 or at intern1@mailtribune .com.
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