Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More nuggets on the "green rush"

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 2:45 PM

Since our feature on Montana's booming medical marijuana industry went to press last week, a few more marijuana news items have come across our desk.

First, to update our story, we heard from Victor-based physician Chris Christensen, the doctor we profiled who specializes in pain management and often recommends medical marijuana to patients. We reported that the Idaho Board of Medicine, about a decade ago, charged Christensen with multiple felony counts of prescribing controlled substances outside the scope of a professional practice because of the volume of opiods he prescribed to his patients with chronic pain in the Silver Valley. Christensen called the day the story hit the stands to report that he was found innocent on all charges.

We also reported that, as a result of the charges, Christensen relinquished his ability to prescribe opioids for the rest of his career. That wasn't exactly accurate. He says he's given up his right to prescribe opiods until, he says, "I force the DEA to give me back my [license], and now that I've been found innocent, believe me, that's the next thing on my agenda."

Also last week (and as we report in Thursday's issue of the Indy), Missoula police raided a local nursing home after receiving a tip that an individual was selling marijuana to its residents. The suspected dealer, Taylor Gibbs, 22, was found to be a medical marijuana caregiver registered with the state, and no charges were filed.

Gibbs says on the morning of Feb. 3 a Missoula S.W.A.T. team and the Missoula Drug Enforcement Task Force came to Eagle Watch Estates on Missoula’s Westside and entered the residence of an individual for whom Gibbs serves as a caretaker (not a medical marijuana caregiver). The police then, Gibbs says, interviewed other residents in the facility. Gibbs says he serves as a medical marijuana caregiver for as many as 12 Eagle Watch residents, most of whom are elderly and ill.

According to Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir, the police didn’t know if Gibbs, founder of Timeless Caregivers, was a registered caregiver or not. Muir says the drug trafficking tip came from an Eagle Watch staffer.

“Some of the initial information was that we didn’t know if he did have [a caregiver card],” Muir says, “so when they first went to talk to him, they were assuming he didn’t have one. But he later did provide them with identification that helped straighten that up.”

Police found no wrongdoing, but Gibbs says damage was done. He claims the resident for whom he was caretaking when police arrived severed ties with him, fearful that Gibbs’ association with medical marijuana could lead to other incidents. Gibbs also says he lost medical marijuana patients at Eagle Watch because they’re now “just a little too afraid.”

“It’s not a good feeling to be bombarded by bullies,” he says.

After the incident Gibbs threatened Muir with court action on the basis that the police officers involved acted inappropriately.

“Nothing has shown itself to be blatantly wrong in the officers’ conduct,” Muir says, “but I’ve only scratched the surface, so I don’t know.”

I asked Muir if the incident was an example of the department focusing on the "wild west" nature of the "green rush."

“No, absolutely not," he said. "We were just responding to a complaint by citizens.”

Muir went on to say that he thinks about a third of all individuals in Missoula who have acquired medical marijuana cards have "misrepresented" their medical conditions. "It's a farce," he said.

Interestingly, Muir also said that if caregivers are making a profit they must have a business license. It came as news to us, and it would, we suspect, come as news to the some 250 registered caregivers in Missoula County who don't have business licenses but might, or at least eventually hope to, make a profit.

In other medical marijuana news, Hamilton will soon have its first medical marijuana shop.

Lewiston has joined Whitefish and Great Falls in placing a moratorium on medical marijuana shops.

And, randomly, WeedMaps.com, a medical marijuana dispensary directory website, has established 420Properties.com, designed to help medical marijuana patients in California, Colorado, Oregon, Michigan and Montana find cannabis friendly landlords.

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