Operator says business is strong at Riverside medical marijuana clinic

January 24, 2008

Gregor McGavin, Press-Enterprise (CA)

One week after the city of Riverside's first medical marijuana clinic opened its doors, staff and patients alike say business is coming along well.

One week after the city of Riverside's first medical marijuana clinic opened its doors, staff and patients alike say business is coming along well.

Lanny Swerdlow, a registered nurse and longtime cannabis advocate who runs it, said the clinic's doctor issued about a dozen recommendations for the drug on the opening day, Jan. 17. The clinic does not dispense marijuana.

"People have to learn about us," said Swerdlow, who operates the clinic under the auspices of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation. The nonprofit group operates medical marijuana clinics in four other states.

"As we build, we'll have more patients," Swerdlow said.

The clinic, located at 647 N. Main St., means a shorter drive for many Inland patients who have had to travel to the Coachella Valley, Los Angeles or Orange County to get a doctor's recommendation for cannabis.

The clinic will be open for doctor visits once every two weeks or so, Swerdlow said. Patients can call and leave a message at any time, however, and Swerdlow said people can come in on other days to get information about medicinal use of the drug.

The Riverside County district attorney's office has said that the clinic would not violate the law as long as no marijuana was provided there.

California voters approved decriminalizing the medicinal use of marijuana in 1996. State law allows people suffering from some chronic ailments to use cannabis to relieve pain, provided they get a doctor's recommendation. Marijuana use is a federal crime, however.

Swerdlow said that only one person who sought a recommendation last week did not receive one. Patients must fax in their medical records before an appointment because no diagnostic testing is done at the clinic. They then undergo physical examinations and their medical histories are checked.

"We don't want to waste their time or our time," Swerdlow said.

The clinic's first patient was an 80-year-old great-grandmother from Temecula whose son and daughter-in-law are longtime medical marijuana users and advocates.

Iris Berger is now using a balm made from cannabis to ease pain from chronic arthritis in her hands and back, said her son, Martin Victor.

"The pain goes away," said Victor, who is a legal grower and user of medical marijuana.

Reach Gregor McGavin at 951-368-9549 or gmcgavin@PE.com



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