Medical marijuana clinic reopens

August 18, 2005

Quincy Cromer, Ukiah Daily Journal

It has been more than two months since medical marijuana distribution centers in the area closed following the Supreme Court decision that federal agents could prosecute medical marijuana users, and a Ukiah cooperative has decided to reopen its doors to the public.

United Medical Caregivers Clinic in Ukiah closed June 9, just three days after the Supreme Court decision maintaining the federal government's ability to prosecute medical marijuana patients, saying it was warned the Drug Enforcement Agency is teaming with the Internal Revenue Service to go after cannabis clubs.

Some 70 days after initially closing, UMCC was open for business Wednesday to pre-existing medical marijuana consumers, a decision made after a new CEO took control of both the Ukiah and Los Angeles cooperatives serving some 18,000 patients.

Scott Feil, previous CEO of UMCC, said the Los Angeles branch has already been reopened and the Ukiah office will start serving local patients again despite the legal situation.

"It (the Supreme Court decision) really didn't do anything except take away the last defense," Feil said. "It is frustrating to see how law has changed. Congress made it illegal, and Congress has the power to make it legal again. That is where the fight has to be made."

Feil said the new CEO, who he identified only as Steve, will continue to serve all former medical marijuana patients, and new patients will only be accepted if they are terminally ill.

"We are not taking any new members, but we are honoring old customers," he said.

"If someone is at my door dying in the next six months, I am not going to turn them away. That is why we are reopening, because people are dying or extremely suffering without it and Oakland is the closest place anyone can go for any sort of quality."

With some 6,000 local patients, Feil said medical marijuana users were forced to buy cannabis from people on the street, creating a dangerous situation where sellers could take advantage of patients and no one was legally protected.

"The street dealing, from what I understand, has become competitive because there are kids selling marijuana to people on the streets," Feil said. "If you are arrested on drug charges now, you might as well go directly to sentencing."

Feil, who no longer manages UMCC, has become politically involved in supporting the rights of medical marijuana patients and cooperatives, meeting with members of Congress and lobbying for support of medical marijuana protective measures.

"I have to stand back from this and just yell louder I have a lot of political backing now and I just want to take advantage of that," he said.

One of the efforts Feil hopes to implement locally is a drug abuse program in schools, providing incentives to students who voluntarily take random drug tests.

Feil is also supporting an application for a clinical trial on medical marijuana, which he hopes will make it legal to distribute such Class 1 drugs with proper documents and a doctor's prescription.

Dane Wilkins, Northern California executive director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said "I think it is important that they reopen but only under strict business practices to meet the needs of the patients that are too disabled to grow their own or don't have the ability to grow their own marijuana," Wilkins said. "It is a benefit to the community to have a well-run dispensary in the city of Ukiah."

Since the Supreme Court decision, Wilkins said the medical marijuana situation has not changed, but there are some legislative efforts currently being considered to offer protection for users and distributors.

"There have been more marijuana plants pulled up by CAMP (the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) but no medical marijuana patients have been targeted. For a typical medical marijuana patient, things are the same as they were," Wilkins said. "On a federal level, there are some efforts being made to reschedule marijuana from a Class 1 drug to a lower class drug, which would change how it is being viewed by the federal government."

UMCC is currently open to all previous cardholders on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and all new and renewal patients must meet new guidelines.

Quincy Cromer can be reached at .

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