Riverside clinic will offer doctors' notes for medical marijuana

November 12, 2007

Gregor McGavin , The Press-Enterprise

Riverside residents could soon have a much shorter drive to get a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana.

Palm Springs resident and marijuana activist Lanny Swerdlow said he plans to open a clinic in December in an office building at 647 N. Main St. in northern Riverside.

"It's kind of a good central location for the entire Inland," said Swerdlow, a registered nurse who heads the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project.

Ingrid Wyatt, a spokeswoman for the Riverside County district attorney's office, has said in previous interviews that such a clinic would not be against the law provided no marijuana was dispensed there. She could not be reached for comment Monday.

"We do not dispense any cannabis at all," Swerdlow said in a telephone interview. "We're completely legal."

California voters approved decriminalizing the medicinal use of marijuana in 1996. State law allows people suffering from AIDS-related complications, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and other diseases to use cannabis to relieve pain. They must first get a doctor's recommendation.

But marijuana use remains a federal crime. This year, federal authorities have raided or shut down dispensaries in Palm Desert, Corona, Perris, Riverside and Norco.

Swerdlow said a Rancho Mirage doctor is the only other physician in Riverside and San Bernardino counties who can provide a recommendation for medical marijuana. Patients seeking a recommendation have had to go the Coachella Valley or to Los Angeles or Orange County.

The Riverside clinic would be run by Swerdlow under the auspices of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, a nonprofit group that operates medical marijuana clinics in Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington state.

Swerdlow said several Inland doctors have agreed to work at the clinic. Patients will have to submit their medical records because no diagnostic testing will be done at the clinic.

Patients will undergo physical examinations, and their medical histories will be checked.

For those a doctor believes medical marijuana would benefit, recommendations will be written.

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