Clinical Trial

November 27, 2007

Joshua Zaffos, Rocky Mountain Chronicle

James Masters quotes Abraham Lincoln — “Revolutions do not go backwards” — when speaking about the progress of the medical marijuana movement from inside the PVMC, otherwise known as Poudre Valley Medical Cannabis.

The space is, in fact, Northern Colorado’s first medical marijuana dispensary and since opening its doors in October, James and his wife, Lisa, have sought to emancipate sufferers of cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma by using cannabis to cope with and alleviate their illnesses.



The Masters are the founders of PVMC, and like Sy Sperling of the Hair Club for Men, they’re not just upper management. They’re also clients. James possibly suffers from porphyria, an enzyme abnormality, which causes him severe nausea and once even put him in a coma. Lisa has herniated discs and joint swelling and spasms. As medical marijuana providers, their own run-in with the law in part inspired them to establish the dispensary, after patients outgrew meeting space at the Alley Cat Café in Fort Collins. (Read “High Noon” from the January 18 edition, online at rmchronicle.com and sidebar).

PVMC serves about thirty patients a week, each one registered with the state under Amendment 20, a medical marijuana law passed by voters in 2000. The medicine comes from registered caregivers and patients who grow and provide excess cannabis beyond the two-ounce-per-person limit. Those growers are compensated, the Masters say.

No marijuana is grown at the dispensary, and all medicine is taken off-site every night to an undisclosed location. Before moving into the semi-industrial strip mall off Link Lane outside Fort Collins city limits, the Masters say the building owner called the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office to make sure the operation was legal. He got the O.K., so long as the business is licensed. (As of press time, PVMC has registered as a business with the Colorado Secretary of State and is awaiting final paperwork.)

“The big thing is trying not to mimic what other dispensaries have done,” James says, referring to a string of DEA busts and exorbitant pricing in California cannabis clubs. “What people are calling ‘reasonable compensation’ is profiteering. We want to value our patients over the profit margin.”

The Masters charge only $45 for an eighth of an ounce of marijuana — less than the street price — and customers have told them they are the cheapest supplier in the state.

The most successful dispensaries support patients, not just by supplying them with high-quality medicine, but also teaching them to grow their own and schooling clients on the most effective practices, such as ingesting or vaporizing pot instead of just smoking it, says Paul Stanford, CEO of Portland-based The Hemp and Cannabis (THC) Foundation, which helps people gain medical marijuana permits through clinics, including one in Wheat Ridge, in almost a dozen states.

“Modes of medication” is the topic of a weeknight meeting at PVMC, where James sits before a foldout table displaying different pot paraphernalia. James jokes that it’s show-and-tell night before leading off the discussion and demonstration — sans pot. There are rolling papers, pipes, a very tall bong, something called the Volcano — a plug-in vaporizer that fills a tempered plastic bag with marijuana vapor — and, finally, a ganja-butter treat made with raisins and sugar, which, James says, is “kinda like an energy bar, except if you eat too much.”

James and Lisa envision that PVMC, which will have a grand opening in the next few months, will offer free community-activism resources, massage and Reiki workshops, and for-fee classes on growing vegetables, flowers and weed. The Masters say they intend to eventually direct profits from PVMC back into general community healthcare programs, such as prescription assistance.

Nancy, who asks that her last name be withheld, first came to PVMC two weeks ago, after learning about the dispensary from the THC Foundation clinic in Wheat Ridge, which helped her enlist with the state’s medical marijuana registry for treatment of glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.

“I realized when I had some good cannabis my eyes did not hurt at all, but when I ran out, my eyes hurt so much, and they would bulge,” she says.

Lisa explains that cannabis actually does reduce blood pressure and optic-nerve swelling, adding that certain strains work best for certain medical conditions.

“Finding these guys has been a godsend,” Nancy says. “They’re like scientists. I trust them to make me feel better.”


KIND TREATMENT

A county judge has ruled that the Larimer County Drug Task Force must return the marijuana-cultivating equipment that was seized during a raid of James and Lisa Masters’ home in August 2006. He also permitted the couple’s right to information regarding the status of the 39 plants removed from their home during the raid.

This June, a county judge dismissed a criminal case against the couple after ruling that a police search was performed illegally and the county district attorney’s office conceded there was no admissible evidence.

The state’s medical marijuana law requires law enforcement officials to care for and return plants, paraphernalia and equipment upon determination of registered medical marijuana patients and/or dismissal of charges.

In August, Lieutenant Craig Dodd told us that the task force does not have its own grow room and that they do not care for seized plants. The Masters’ have said they will seek compensation for whatever plants have died as a result of their confiscation.

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