The Gray Area on Medical Greenery

The Gray Area on Medical Greenery
Posted by CN Staff on May 21, 2005 at 16:04:47 PT
By Reid Williams, Summit Daily News
Source: Summit Daily News
Summit County, Colorado  -- Dave Schreiner was a church deacon and Boy Scout leader in Ohio for 25 years before moving to Summit County in 1999. Now, what occupies his mind — besides his wife, children, bills and the typical family travails — is growing marijuana.Born with congenital defects in both femurs, Schreiner has been addled by pain since his teenage years. He has spent monthlong stints in the hospital in full-body casts.
He has endured more than 20 surgeries, leaving more than a dozen rods, plates and pins affixed to and drilled into his bones. He even broke both femurs while in physical therapy. A lifetime of weak legs has also thrown his back out of alignment, requiring more doctors. And six years ago, he suffered a heart attack.“I’m in constant pain, all the time,” Schreiner said. “The surgeries are trauma.”The list of medications doctors prescribe to deal with the pain — and the conditions of which the pain is a symptom — is long and expensive. It includes slow-release morphine pills, the narcotic Oxycontin, epidurals and more. Some might question Schreiner’s need for marijuana given his regimen of intoxicants, but he explains, “They make me sick if I don’t smoke.”So, three years ago, he got his first medical marijuana card. Lacking space in their Summit Cove home, Schreiner’s growing operation took root in the living room. He didn’t like it, he says, as his older children couldn’t bring friends over and he had to lie to his younger kids’ friends and say they were tomato plants.There was no fooling adults, though, and Summit County’s Drug Task Force soon received a tip about “grow lights” glowing in the living room of Schreiner’s house. It was a spring night, just over a year ago, as the Schreiner family was sitting down to dinner, when there came a knock at the door. Schreiner knew the officer — their children attended school together — and was shocked when presented with a search warrant.“They all had big guns,” Schreiner said. “They said they got a search warrant based on the color of the high-pressure sodium lights they could see from the street. They pulled us out on the deck. I showed them my card right away. I thought they should have stopped right there, but they searched through the house anyway.”Schreiner’s wife gave the task force a copy of Colorado’s medical marijuana law. The officers retreated to confer with lawyers and the court. In the end, the Drug Task Force left after filming and recording Schreiner’s apparatus and plants. “It was kind of odd leaving there empty-handed,” Sheriff John Minor would later say. “We’d never encountered that situation before, and we really didn’t know what to do.”To put it lightly, the intrusion irked Schreiner and his family. The neighborhood was talking about it, and the Schreiners worried about their children having to deal with it. His medical history, once confidential, now had to be offered as explanation and excuse. He feels the whole ordeal was unnecessary.The Schreiners moved to Lake County within a few months. They found a bigger house — plenty of room for the kids, without having to play around dad’s growing operation — and felt relatively anonymous. But Leadville police came knocking at the door a month later, showing their search warrant, looking for a drug dealer. Again, the Schreiners showed the medical marijuana card and a copy of the law.“I’m pissed,” Dave Schreiner said. “I feel like they should be able to do more background checks, more detective work to figure out that, ‘Hey, we’re going after the wrong guy.’”His wife, Deb, added: “The only way we can protect ourselves is to go to them. And we shouldn’t have to do that.”‘Doug’Let’s call this guy “Doug.” Even though the state has given him the legal approval to grow and use marijuana for medical reasons, he’s still not comfortable putting his name into the public domain. And when he’s not afraid, he’s just angry.Doug used to be an airplane pilot, until the doctors diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis. As the disease has progressed, his employment opportunities have degraded, as his balance, overall wellness and vision have deteriorated. When his “attacks” are bad, for example, he goes blind in his left eye.Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder. The body, in biochemical confusion, attacks itself, mistaking healthy tissue and systems for foreign invaders. With Doug, the attacks of late manifest in the myelin, or protective coating, surrounding his left optic nerve.The thing that seems to work best in fighting the attacks, the tremors and the rest is not, however, the doctor-prescribed injection of Avonex he takes twice a week. Nor is it the other Federal Drug Administration-accepted medications doctors suggest. The natural stuff works the best, Doug says.He keeps to a painstaking diet, heavy on natural foods and gluten-free products. He doesn’t drink or use tobacco. The injections help maintain his immune system, but he’ll “turn to pot before anything the FDA has approved.” He tries to stay even-keeled, as stress is the likeliest trigger for an attack.It doesn’t always work. He’s getting divorced. He gets agitated thinking about all the money his parents must spend to support him, when all he wants is to be a productive man. So he sits in Summit Cove, watching History Channel documentaries, with all day to think, trying not to think because that’s what starts the buzzing in his nervous system, wondering as he packs his marijuana pipe if this is the time when his vision in that left eye won’t return.To say he’s occasionally possessed by fits of blind rage would be metaphorically, and literally, correct. But it wouldn’t capture the irony: Lately, stress weighs on him like a jumbo jet, because he’s afraid of police officers showing up at his door, taking away the thing that seems to help the best. Doug is one of Summit County’s 15 residents with a medical marijuana card, and he’s afraid of the county’s Drug Task Force.“There’s a fine line between terrorism and tyranny,” Doug said in a recent interview in the living room of his home, where there is a computer print-out of the Bill of Rights taped above the couch, the important amendments about freedoms and privacy within pointing range. “They both wear black masks.”Doug has watched over the past year as local law enforcement agencies have made headlines. It’s the raids that scare him: Police holding a family at gun-point over a stolen car they had nothing to do with; a Frisco couple’s home ransacked in a fruitless search for a meth lab; and marijuana growing operations seized — or not, in the case of at least two more false alarms.Unable to take the stress and the uncertainty anymore, Doug went to law enforcement himself. He called on the sheriff, told him what he’d find at Doug’s house and asked him point-blank if he had anything to worry about.“They said they wouldn’t be coming to my house,” Doug said. “But I’m not sure I believe them.”Unknown to Doug at the time, some of Summit County’s other medical marijuana patients were having similar lapses in faith.The Catch-22Colorado voters approved medical marijuana in November 2000, becoming one of 10 states in the country with some sort of law on the books allowing use of the illegal substance. Colorado’s Amendment 20 created a medical marijuana registry program, administered by the Department of Public Health and Environment. Under the law, a person (both adults and minors) can apply to be put on the registry with approvals from physicians who concur that the patient suffers from a debilitating condition (cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, spasms, seizures and chronic pain are among the approved) and that marijuana would provide some relief for the patient’s specific situation.The law states that patients with a valid medical marijuana card can possess up to two ounces of a usable form of marijuana (as well as the paraphernalia to use it). The patient can grow marijuana, with a total of six plants, three or less in the flowering stage. Caregivers, who go through a similar approval process and are listed on the card, are permitted to possess, obtain and grow for patients, as well.The application includes a $110 fee (it was $140 when the program was created), not counting the costs for the medical visits and other evaluations that must accompany the application. According to local card-holders, those costs can total as much as $1,200. The cards expire after one year and must be renewed.What the law does not provide, however, is any knowledge about how to grow marijuana, advice or explanation on how to obtain it if not growing it, or the names of any people who could help with that. There is no information about whether different strands of the plant work better for different health conditions. “If a person’s not into that side of the world, how do they obtain it?” Schreiner asks.Schreiner, who gained some horticultural experience studying forestry and botany, considers himself somewhat of a green thumb. It’s obvious to him, and others, that the people who wrote Colorado’s medical marijuana law aren’t as knowledgeable. That’s because, even with what he knows, the limitations on the number of plants means there’s always a risk of running out.Some people grow marijuana like any other garden plant — with potting soil, fertilizers and light. Some grow it hydroponically, using water as a medium for nutrients instead of dirt. Some grow it from seeds, others from “clones,” cuttings or shoots from an already mature plant. As any gardener knows, numerous variables, which if not monitored regularly and attended to, can kill plants. So, between the time it takes to grow a plant to maturity and the difficulty in nurturing plants in a mountain environment, a card-holder who grows the legal six plants might not get them all to produce sufficient quantities of marijuana.“I could have 10 clones and might only have two of them survive to maturity,” Schreiner says. “And when you’re talking about a process that takes three to four months, that’s a big gamble if it doesn’t work out.”Doug is trying to get his growing system to the point where he can harvest from one plant every couple weeks or so, to avoid those gaps where he is not producing or runs out. He’s not quite there yet, though.He points to a mason jar containing dried and cured pot on his coffee table. There is a little under an ounce of bud. “But this is going to have to last me until mid-June,” he says. “That’s not going to work.”In cases such as this, if there are no other card-holders or caregivers to turn to, the patients are faced with a choice: Go without or go get it illegally.Neither does the law address the fact that many people who would need and want medical marijuana and would qualify for a card don’t have the resources or the physical ability to grow it. Charlie (last name withheld by request) lives in Summit County, supported by disability payments. Like any other High Country resident, his living space is small and expensive. He doesn’t have the space or the wherewithal to grow his own.“I have to go to Denver and get it off the street,” he said. “They offered me any pill I wanted, but they wouldn’t let me smoke my medical marijuana,” he said.Matteo’s girlfriend, Betty, has watched as a police car has parked outside their condo and an officer surveys the area, sniffing the air. She doesn’t like the smell of the marijuana smoke, so asks Matteo to smoke on the porch, or blow smoke out the front door. She worries about riding with Matteo in the car, someone calling police because they see him smoking, and what will happen to her if the officer learns she is not listed on the medical marijuana card.Their grower, Ben (last name withheld by request), lives in Boulder. He moved out of Summit County, partly due to the space and cost issues, but also because his landlord tried to have him evicted and arrested when he found out Ben was growing marijuana. The landlord threatened to call police so often, Ben says, he went ahead and called them himself. First, he says, a detective was very understanding and said there wouldn’t be a problem. But when the detective went on vacation, a sergeant picked up the case and was prepared to come rip up the plants. In the end, once Ben had argued his points, the department decided it was strictly a civil matter between the tenant and landlord.“The police need to be really educated on the issue,” Ben said. “They’ve got it in their mind it’s prelude to legalization, and they’re against it. It’s a mind-set.”In an ongoing case that began in Rifle, a judge is weighing charges against a woman whose home was raided by the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team. Officers seized 131 marijuana plants; her caregiver status allowed her to have up to 30 plants, and the woman claims that only 20 of the plants were viable. Despite provisions in the medical marijuana law that order law enforcement agencies to wait for a judge’s decision when medical marijuana plants are seized, the drug enforcement team destroyed most of the plants. The task force commander and an officer admitted under oath in the proceedings in 9th District Court in Glenwood Springs that they knew they were violating the law, but that putting the plants in evidence storage to rot posed a health hazard.“This is very difficult for us,” said Summit County Sheriff John Minor. “It’s something we’re still trying to understand.”The sheriff points out that, in taking his job as the county’s top law enforcement officer, he swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of his country and the state of Colorado. The problem is that, while Colorado’s Constitution has authorized medical marijuana, the federal government has not. Just as medical marijuana card-holders are given no instruction on dealing with the gray area in the law, Colorado law enforcement agencies are left wondering what to do themselves.The sheriff’s ambiguity doesn’t help the card-holders relax. They worry about being put on a “watch list,” or having their names sent to the Drug Enforcement Agency (Minor says he can’t give that information unless federal agents ask for it). They are forced to take risks, the card-holders say, any time they travel out of Colorado to another state that doesn’t have a medical marijuana law.This contradiction could also be having a direct effect on participation in Colorado’s program. In addition to concerns about the gray areas in the law, the state reports that many doctors are reluctant to recommend or sign off on medical marijuana because of the discrepancy between state and federal laws.“It just doesn’t make sense,” says Matteo’s girlfriend Betty. “It’s not illegal but you can’t buy it on the street. We can go to California to get some where it’s legal, but can’t be in the states between here and there. Who says, ‘You can’t have your heart medicine because you’re in Ohio?’ And when you’re already in a compromised position — like blind, in a wheelchair — and you have to take more risks, it’s scary. Very scary.”In a case argued last year before the high court, a California woman sued the government after federal agents confiscated marijuana plants from her yard. The Supreme Court decided against medical marijuana distributors in a case four years ago that sought protection from federal laws. This case will determine if agents have the authority to pursue cases against individual patients in states with legalized marijuana. The court could rule on the case as early as Monday.An Involuntary AdvocateFederal agents might come looking for Dave Schreiner, and he’s afraid of that, but he can’t stand idly by anymore. He knows there are other people out there like himself — in pain, in fear and running out of time — and they shouldn’t have to be. So he’s starting a support group.Schreiner says he’s met too many people who have relatives that would qualify for medical marijuana, but they don’t know how to get information about it. They’re embarrassed to ask their doctor or worried about the stigma if the neighbors find out.No one should have to go through what he’s gone through with police, he says. He wants to make sure that current card-holders can learn how to grow, know where to get the materials and, if they can’t, can get in touch with someone who can grow for them.Schreiner says people with disabilities and health conditions need support from their peers. Such a group would give them a chance to vent, share stories and learn about new treatments or medicines. There’s also a shortage of information about the different medicinal properties of various strands of marijuana, he says.It’s an idea that’s already piquing the interest of card-holders.“It’s a good idea, especially up there,” says Ben, who’s forming a group of fellow veterans in Boulder to push for legalizing growing marijuana. “People need to coalesce and educate the community. Otherwise, the cops will just keep busting people and let the courts sort it out.”Schreiner wishes he didn’t have to do this. He worries about the stigma affecting his children once his picture is in the newspaper. The legacy he wanted to leave them was not medical marijuana reform. But now he feels as though maybe this is what he was meant to do.“There has to be a reason why I spent all this time in church, in Scouts, a reason why I’m going through all this pain,” he said. “The reason is because I’m supposed to bridge the gap. I’m not going to hide anymore. This is my quest.”For more information on a medical marijuana support group, contact Schreiner at (970) 389-2107.Web Extras: Ashcroft vs. Raich Colorado's Medical Marijuana Regulations Source: Summit Daily News (CO)Author: Reid Williams, Summit Daily NewsPublished: May 21, 2005Copyright: 2005 Summit Daily NewsContact: jpokrandt summitdaily.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on May 23, 2005 at 19:41:58 PT
News Brief from Fox 40 KTXL
Mother And Quadriplegic Son Back In Court; Facing Marijuana Charges May 23, 2005 STOCKTON -- It only lasted five minutes today, but the case against Aaron Paradiso and his mother, Debra, in San Joaquin County has been going for two years. The quadriplegic and his caregiver are charged again with growing and possessing medical marijuana for sale."I think it's a horrible waste of taxpayers money to keep messing with this medical marijuana law that's already been passed since 1996," says Aaron Padadiso of Stockton.Prop 215 gave people in California the right to use marijuana, with the permission of a doctor, for medical purposes. Then two years ago, Senate Bill 420 took that a step further and said those using marijuana for medical purposes had to have ID cards, and could grow or cultivate it under certain guidelines. But those dealing with the issue say interpretation of S-B 420 is difficult.William Panzer, Debra Paradiso's attorney, says "There are several issues and we're all trying to come up with what is allowed under the law and trying to reach a resolution that way."Aaron grows marijuana for himself and two others who use it as medicine. He says the 13 plants he cultivates are well below what's allowed by state law. The law allows six plants per patient.Communities like Roseville and Modesto have medical marijuana stores, which some say is an easier way to control the product.The case against Aaron and Debra Paradiso is scheduled for trial July 11th."I believe and I've seen the effects and how it helps him just hope he prevails in this case," says Debra. Copyright: 2005, KTXL,0,7374490.story?coll=ktxl-news-1
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Comment #4 posted by afterburner on May 21, 2005 at 23:28:50 PT
If Dave Schreiner or his Friends Read This Site...
Here is a link to order a med-pot growing video for your medical marijuana support group: Grow Big and Grow Legal
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Comment #3 posted by The GCW on May 21, 2005 at 20:11:29 PT
A few photos are included."Who says, ‘You can’t have your heart medicine because you’re in Ohio?’ """Why do people have to pay the Gov. $110 to be able to use cannabis but not have to pay for using any other substance?Why, do people need to be approved, when God gave it and already gave its ok on the very 1st page of the Bible? 
Is someone less deserving, if they did not pay the state $110?
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Comment #2 posted by ekim on May 21, 2005 at 18:52:42 PT
Dave Schreiner meet Howard and Misty soon.
May 23 05 El Paso County Commissioners 09:00 AM Howard Wooldridge Colorado Springs Colorado USA 
 Board Member Howard Wooldridge speaks at the El Paso County Commissioners Meeting on issues related to the failure of drug prohibition and Howard's cross country trip to end the failed war on drugs. Topics sure to come up are the the waste of tax payer money, specific issues related to the Rocky Mountain region of the country, the drug warrior ideology and other facets of the failed American drug policy. Follow Howard on his cross country journey at 
May 24 05 Rampart Range Rotary 07:00 AM Howard Wooldridge Colorado Springs Colorado USA 
 Members of the Rampart Range Rotary welcome Board Member Howard Wooldridge for breakfast and discussion of issues related to the failure of drug prohibition. May 24 05 City of Colorado Springs Citizen Discussion 01:00 PM Howard Wooldridge Colorado Springs Colorado USA 
 Board Member Howard Wooldridge will participate in the City of Colorado Springs' Citizen Discussion Period. Howard will be providing information on the failure of America's war on drugs and it's negative impact on national and local communities across the country. Howard will also be discussing his cross country trip with his horse and companion, Misty. Follow Howard and Misty's journey at May 25 05 Freethinkers of Colorado Springs 07:00 PM Howard Wooldridge Colorado Springs Colorado USA 
 One of the best free thinkers around, Board Member Howard Wooldridge, will be meeting with the Freethinkers of Colorado Springs to discuss issues related to the failure of drug prohibition and the mission of his cross country tour. This free event is open to the public. Expect to hear one of the most interesting and thought provoking discussions of the year. This may be your only opportunity to meet a member of the Longrider's Guild. Location: Centennial Hall , 200 South Cascade. To stay up to date on Howard's journey, go to: May 25 05 Sertoma Club of Colorado Springs 07:00 AM Howard Wooldridge Colorado Springs Colorado USA 
 Board Member Howard Wooldridge and his horse Misty breakfast with members of the Sertoma Club of Colorado Springs. Discussion during breakfast time will focus on Howard and Misty's cross country mission to educate the country about the failure of drug prohibition. Topics to be explored will be the relationship of prohibition to crime, the human and financial costs of the drug war and specific issues related to the Colorado Springs region of the country. Stay up to date on Howard and Misty's journey at::
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Comment #1 posted by Toker00 on May 21, 2005 at 17:12:20 PT
This paragraph says so much...
“There has to be a reason why I spent all this time in church, in Scouts, a reason why I’m going through all this pain,” he said. “The reason is because I’m supposed to bridge the gap. I’m not going to hide anymore. This is my quest."Mine too, bro. Don't we know exactly how he feels?Peace. Legalize, then Revolutionize!(medicine)(energy)(nutrition) 
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