Pubdate: Sun, 14 Jul 2013
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2013 The Arizona Republic
Author: Gary Nelson
Page: B4


Nearly three years after Arizona voters narrowly approved the concept,
medical marijuana has come to Mesa.

Giving Tree Wellness Center opened in late June at 938 E. Juanita
Ave., just the sort of industrial-park setting that the City Council
envisioned two years ago when it approved zoning restrictions for such

It is Giving Tree's second facility in the Valley; the other is in
north Phoenix.

Both are under the medical direction of Dr. Gina Berman, an
emergency-room physician who believes traditional Western medicine can
go only so far in helping some patients.

"I see a lot of patients ... who have had organs removed or they have
chronic pain, they're on patches and ... they're on all these
different things and they're not getting any better and they're going
down the rabbit hole of narcotics," Berman said. "So, I thought it
would be interesting to try to open people's eyes to other alternative

She was especially interested in acupuncture and acupressure

"I thought it would be nice to have a whole center where patients
could come and really try out those other modalities," Berman said.
But one problem with that is chronically ill patients may not have the
money to experiment with therapies that may or may not help them.

Berman said approval of Proposition 203 in November 2010 opened her
eyes to the possibility that a medical-marijuana facility could
financially support those other services.

Finding a location in Mesa was tough, however.

Early plans for a site near Country Club Drive and Baseline Road fell
through, as did Berman's first choice in the industrial park just east
of Horne and south of U.S. 60.

The lobby looks like any free distribution, although Berman said no
such donations have come in.

When asked directly whether, as a physician, she is convinced
marijuana is a valid treatment for some conditions, Berman said, "I

"I can't see how anybody who's looked at the research and the evidence
can say otherwise," she added. "I'm not saying it's a panacea. And I'm
not saying it's the best thing for everything. That's

But, she said, the mostly middle-age patients who come to her center
deserve an opportunity to find a treatment that works.

"They are ill people," she said. "They're not potheads that are
looking to have fun. The people that come in here really do have
medical issues. ... You can't treat the patients automatically like
they're criminals. They're trying to make their lives better."

She said marijuana must be treated as carefully as anything else
people consume.

"Everything you put in your body can have a downside," she said.
"Caffeine, sugar, alcohol, tobacco, fat, high-fructose corn syrup. You
name it, if you put it in your body you need to know what its effects
are and what the bad things are about it. And then moderation is the

Patients, she said, will be responsible for making sure they don't
violate the law after they use marijuana.

"I know there's a lot of concern about people smoking and driving,"
Berman said. But she said the same level of concern should apply to
people who drive after drinking, or when they're tired or on medication.

Berman said she'd eventually like to move to a more visible location,
something she thinks is possible as Mesa gets used to
medical-marijuana facilities and as zoning laws evolve.

"I think it's wise to take it slow and then we can open things up as
people become more comfortable," Berman said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt