BUTTE — More than 100 people applied for medical-marijuana cards Thursday as a traveling clinic made its first stop in Butte.
The clinic, organized by the nonprofit Montana Caregivers Network, is visiting seven Montana cities in seven days. It brings doctors, growers (known as caregivers) and patients together, according to director Jason Christ of Missoula.
“A different strain for each pain,” he said. “We’re about hooking patients up with the caregiver that’s right for them.”
Those applying for the cards filled out a medical questionnaire, then went into a private room to speak with a doctor. The cost was $150. Christ couldn’t say just what percentage would qualify and in four to six weeks have their medical-marijuana cards mailed to them by the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. He said he has already helped thousands of people obtain the registry cards.
Cardholders can then grow their own marijuana, up to six plants, or they can pay a caregiver to grow it for them.
Dan Klein of the Bozeman area, a provider who goes by the name “Dr. Feel Good” and was decked out in a white medical coat and stethoscope although he is not a registered physician, said he has more than 200 patients and more than 1,000 plants. He said business is good, allowing him to pay cash for his camouflage Hummer parked outside.
“It beats working,” he laughed.
Christ spends these clinics answering all sorts of questions for patients: if they can cross state lines with their medicine, if they could be fired from their job, what are the laws on hash possession if you have a card, what constitutes a “plant.”
“There is still a lot that is vague,” he said. “We try to give the best legal answers we can.”
Lawyers spoke to the crowd, giving tips on what to do if they are stopped by the police and where and what they could legally smoke and what remains illegal.
More than a dozen marijuana growers were on hand with business cards and large binders filled with their offerings, detailing the exact makeup of each strain.
Christ said the main challenge for the medical-marijuana movement is “ignorance.” He said he has tried to appear before as many city councils as possible, speaking to them about marijuana and about state law.
He said he has been disappointed with recent rulings that outlawed medical marijuana on the University of Montana campus and with city councils that have zoned where and how many of caregivers are allowed to set up shop.
“That’s just breaking the law,” he said. “I’m really upset about that.”
Christ said it will take time for the stigma of marijuana use to wear off, but he feels that things were moving in the right direction. “Once people begin to treat it as medicine, the smaller issues will take care of themselves,” he said.