The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation (THC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping patients legally gain access to medical marijuana, recently announced “medical marijuana clinics” in Missoula on Nov. 18 and Billings the day prior. While currently scheduled as one-day events, THC plans to open “more permanent clinics in established locations” in the future, according to an organization press release.
Existing THC clinics have assisted more than 40,000 patients in securing a “permit to legally possess, use and grow medical marijuana” in Nevada, Washington, California, Oregon, Hawaii and Colorado. Repeated inquiries from Montanans at a facility in Spokane inspired the Montana expansion.
“The clinics are a cure for patients who have a qualifying condition under Montana law and can prove it with their medical records, but whose doctors won’t sign a [medical marijuana] recommendation,” says Tom Daubert, director of Helena-based Patients and Families United, a public education and support group for pain patients.
Federal law prohibits doctors from “prescribing” marijuana, so physicians write “recommendations,” which serve as a professional judgment that marijuana would benefit a patient’s condition. Four years ago Montana voters moved to change state law to allow patients suffering from an array of “debilitating medical conditions” to legally medicate with marijuana.
More than 1,400 Montanans have received medical marijuana recommendations from more than 160 doctors since the program began, according to Roy Kemp with the Department of Public Health and Human Services. Daubert, however, believes that fear—or ignorance of the law—prevents significant numbers of both patients and doctors from considering the drug. The clinics, Daubert says, will change that.
“If you have a qualifying condition,” he says, “the clinics will be your guarantee to get a recommendation.”
While licensed physicians will be on hand at both clinics to write recommendations, they won’t be diagnosing patients or dispensing marijuana. Instead, patients will be directed to the state registry of licensed caregivers.
“This will be a really important step to have this occur openly,” says Daubert, “especially in the eastern part of the state.”