HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Medical Marijuana Moves Mainstream
Pubdate: Tue, 30 Jun 2009
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2009 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Dana Hull, Mercury News
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - California)


David Goldman has a chronic headache, but help is on the way. A 
driver arrives at his apartment and rings the doorbell, checks 
Goldman's ID card, then hands over a small bag of marijuana.

"It's really nice to have the convenience of delivery," said Goldman, 
a retired teacher who orders medicinal marijuana about once a week 
from the Green Cross, a medical marijuana delivery service. "I trust 
their product, and their prices are competitive."

As Californians consider legalizing marijuana, the Green Cross in San 
Francisco is a signal of just how mainstream pot has become. In some 
ways, the medical marijuana dispensary is just like any other retail 
business: It takes credit cards; it's reviewed on Yelp; and it 
promises delivery within an hour - there's even a $10 discount if the 
pot is late.

"Drivers are clean-cut, professional, and bring your goods in a 
discreet white paper bag," wrote one Yelp user. "Like ordering a 
pizza, but, of course, much better," wrote another.

Since November 1996, when California voters passed Proposition 215, 
medical marijuana has been steadily moving toward mainstream 
acceptance. Thirteen states, including Maine, Michigan, Montana and 
New Mexico, have passed laws allowing seriously ill patients access 
to medical marijuana. The cause has celebrity advocates: singer 
Melissa Etheridge, who used marijuana to alleviate the effects of 
chemotherapy, is among those now pushing for its legalization, and 
television host Montel Williams openly talks about using marijuana to 
relieve the pain of his multiple sclerosis.

Meanwhile, California's battered economy and $24 billion budget gap 
is fueling calls for marijuana use to be more widely legalized, as 
well as taxed like alcohol and cigarettes, a tactic supported by 56 
percent of voters, according to an April Field Poll. And a statewide 
initiative to legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for 
all Californians 21 and older is expected to go before voters in November 2010.

Currently, only medicinal marijuana is legal and there are about 400 
medical marijuana dispensaries in California, including 25 in San 
Francisco, though none in Santa Clara County.

The Green Cross operates out of founder and owner Kevin Reed's 
apartment in a large Victorian house at 11th and Howard streets. 
Here, 19 employees bake brownies and other THC-infused "edibles," 
stock cabinets with more than 40 different strains of marijuana from 
a changing menu (an ounce is $310), and assemble orders.

Office workers wearing headsets begin taking orders for medical 
marijuana and edibles at 10 a.m., when the phones start ringing 
nonstop. Delivery service starts at noon and ends around 7 p.m., but 
there's usually a big rush at the end of the day.

Drivers use a fleet of tiny Smart Cars to crisscross the city's hilly 
streets. On a busy day, a driver will make about 25 deliveries.

"People who don't have health insurance are the people using medical 
marijuana the most," said Reed, an Alabama native who founded the 
Green Cross five years ago. "Delivery is key because some of our 
patients literally cannot get out of their beds. It's like hot pizza 
to me: Once an order is in, you've got to get it out the door in 20 minutes."

Other dispensaries in California also deliver. But the Green Cross is 
one of the largest, with about 2,500 active "patients," as they refer 
to all clients. Some struggle with depression or chronic pain; others 
have AIDS or cancer.

The Green Cross only delivers within San Francisco city limits. Its 
client base, however, extends far beyond the city, including 176 
patients in San Jose. Drivers typically arrange to meet those 
patients or their caregivers in the parking lot of the Stonestown 
mall near Interstate 280.

Santa Clara County's Public Health Department has issued 993 medical 
marijuana identification cards to date, according to spokeswoman Joy Alexiou.

Reed grew up in Mobile, Ala. He began smoking marijuana - he prefers 
to call it by its Latin name, cannabis - years ago, after seriously 
hurting his back in a car accident. At the time he didn't have health 
insurance, and marijuana was easier to get than pain pills. He moved 
to California 13 years ago, shortly after voters passed Proposition 
215, and has been involved in the medical marijuana movement ever since.

He began the Green Cross with a storefront dispensary in tony Noe 
Valley, but complaints by neighbors about all the foot traffic in and 
out eventually shut him down. He tried to open a storefront in 
Fisherman's Wharf, but other businesses fought the idea, saying it 
would scare away tourists.

Reed finally decided to sell medical marijuana out of his apartment 
via delivery service. He first liked the idea because it solved the 
problem of annoyed neighbors; he quickly learned that it was also a 
huge hit with customers.

Reed is a stickler for rules: Patients must show him the original 
recommendation for medical marijuana from their health care 
professional, and Reed will then verify that the doctor's license is current.

One of Reed's peeves is that most people don't understand the many 
difference between indica and sativa, the two main strains of 
marijuana. Indica is commonly used for pain or to induce appetite; 
Sativa reduces depression and is more stimulating and creatively 
enhancing. Detailed "Know Your Medication" pamphlets describing 
various products (type of high, scent/taste) go out to all patients, 
and all employees must pass an extensive written test.

"I go overboard because I want people to know that this can be done 
right," said Reed, who smokes about 10 joints a day. "Cannabis is a 
drug. It has side effects. It's not something that should be readily 
available to anyone and everyone."
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