Young patient wants to ease other patients concerns, fears

September 15, 2005

Shanna McCord, Santa Cruz Sentinel

UC Santa Cruz student Mike Clifford learned what it’s like to become a medical marijuana patient three years ago.

At age 19, Clifford found himself suffering a hernia and a stomach condition called gastritis, something that severely limited his ability to eat. He’d become full on only half a slice of pizza, he said.

A medical marijuana prescription saved his appetite, he said. But it was an internship with MediCann, an organization of alternative medicine clinics statewide dedicated to medical marijuana patients, that opened his eyes to the widespread problems related to patients and their access to the drug.

"It was like our hands were tied," said Clifford, a senior studying economic justice. "We have a prescription, but it’s illegal to buy and sell."

Clifford is now channeling his frustrations and expertise into a downtown information center that caters to the questions and anxieties of medical marijuana patients.

The Local Patients Advocacy Group opened at 903 Pacific Avenue recently.

The office, located across from the Metro bus station, is designed "to provide a comfortable environment for members to discuss issues, review educational material, access the Internet and, most importantly, become involved in an organization to call their own."

About 25 members signed up during the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana’s WAMMFest at San Lorenzo Park on Saturday, Clifford said.

The advocacy group will operate on membership dues and donations, he said.

Inside the office are folding tables, milk crates and computers, he said.

Clifford swapped two months of office rent — $1,200 — for helping the landlord with some construction projects.

He is seeking members, volunteers and supporters. Call 454-0215.



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