Pubdate: Mon, 20 Oct 2003
Source: Medford Mail Tribune (OR)
Copyright: 2003 The Mail Tribune
Author: Damian Mann, Mail Tribune
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


A Local Cancer Patient Who Grows His Own Medicinal Marijuana Juggles 
Worries About Law-Enforcement Scrutiny and Fear of Thefts From His Backyard 

Diagnosed with bladder cancer, Erik has discovered that growing marijuana 
in his back yard for medicinal reasons isn't as easy as growing tomato plants.

This 35-year-old Jackson County man has asked that his real name and 
location not be revealed because his pot was stolen last year, but agreed 
to discuss his recent harvest and the importance of it as medicine.

"People on the program aren't just druggies out to get high," he said

"I'd rather not grow pot. I'd rather not be sick."

Erik is one of the first 500 people in Oregon to get a medical marijuana 
card and one of 486 in Jackson County who are legally authorized to grow 
the plant or to have someone else grow it for them.

Since September, the number of people with marijuana cards has increased 
from 335, a 45 percent increase that is partially attributable to a backlog 
of applications cleared by the state.

For the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, the number of backyard plots 
and the backlog of applications has become a nuisance.

"It has been confusing, said Lt. Dewey Patten, commander of the Jackson 
County Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Sometimes a grower is cultivating enough plants for more than one person, 
but the applications haven't cleared the state yet.

"We give them the benefit of the doubt that their (additional) application 
would be approved," he said

Although no arrests have been made this year for the 2,000 illegal plants 
confiscated in mostly forested areas, Patten said the laws regarding legal 
cultivation are often being abused.

"It's a scam," he said. "The vast majority are doing it to make money."

Erik is dismayed by what he perceives as the continued callousness of law 
enforcement officials regarding the suffering that people like him endure.

"I think the cops are more understanding than they used to be, but they're 
still complaining about it," he said.

Every three months he goes in for a checkup, which sometimes involves 
removing a tumor from his bladder.

"I go into the doctor's office feeling fine and come out feeling like I got 
kicked in the groin three times," he said.

His doctor has prescribed other drugs such as oxycontin or hydrocodone, but 
they haven't relieved the symptoms the way marijuana has - and they are 
also highly addictive.

"I don't want to end up getting addicted like Rush Limbaugh," he said.

When trimming his pot, Erik wears surgeon's gloves because he doesn't want 
to smell like marijuana.

He also airs out his house after trimming so his wife doesn't have to put 
up with a smell that she doesn't like.

His backyard garden, surrounded by a 6-foot-high chain-link fence, is about 
6 feet square, making it typical of the kinds of gardens law enforcement 
agencies have spotted from the air.

He worries about theft, saying he slept outside for the past month to 
protect his plants.

While it might look like a lot of pot, said Erik, he probably will only 
have enough to last about a half a year.

This will likely force him to order the drug illegally online at $300 an 

He also has to order seeds online from a source in Europe.

He's also worried that smoking of marijuana could cause long-term health 
damage, so he has ordered a unit that vaporizes the dried buds at a 
temperature of 260-280 degrees, producing less harmful smoke.

"I don't want to take in any more carcinogens than I have to," he said.

While Patten agreed that there are medical benefits for some people who 
smoke pot, the issue of backyard gardens has been frustrating and confusing 
to proper law enforcement.

In years past, helicopter flyovers typically found marijuana growing in 
forested areas.

Now, deputies are seeing less in the forest and more large patches clearly 
visible in back yards.

His office checks with state officials to determine whether the patch 
belongs to someone with a medical marijuana card, or to a caregiver - 
someone authorized to grow pot for someone who uses it as medicine.

"A few of them have been way out of compliance and we got search warrants," 
he said.

The pot growers have generally been compliant with law enforcement 
officials and have removed the extra plants. The law entitles them to grow 
three mature plants and four immature plants.

However, in some cases growers, who had slightly more than their limit of 
plants, have threatened deputies over the phone

"A couple of them, we didn't go to, because it would be a big 
confrontation," said Patten, noting the properties were fenced and gated.

Aaron Cossel, office specialist for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, 
said it has been difficult to process all the applications submitted to his 

"We have a backlog," he said. "We're six weeks behind in reviewing files."
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager