Pot store hits Fort Collins

Apr 072008
Authors: Trevor Simonton

A new Fort Collins healing center opened today that plans to sell, among other organic medicines, medicinal marijuana.

EnerChi Healing Center, owned by James and Pamela Fleming, is a holistic healing center that provides a variety of organic treatments to its consumers.

“I prefer organic medicine because it’s more natural; our bodies were built to heal themselves, and natural medicine helps us do just that,” said Pamela Fleming, a registered user of medicinal marijuana. “Here we embrace both the Eastern and Western forms of medicine.”

From Chinese herbs and yoga to acupuncture and hypnosis, they have quite a selection of home remedies and natural cures.

“At EnerChi we have 20 practitioners; people can come to see us, and we will help treat their problem with organic medicine,” Pamela Fleming said.

Though EnerChi is the first “health center” to offer medicinal marijuana to state-registered users, the Poudre Valley Medical Cannabis club off Mulberry, a dispensary for the medicine, has been selling medicinal marijuana to registered users for almost a year.

A CSU engineering student and registered user of medicinal marijuana, who preferred to remain nameless, said that he has been getting his medicine from the PVMC for about six months.

In 2006, the PVMC made news when Fort Collins police raided their house.

Police destroyed their plants and glass, but charges were later dropped in court, as owners James and Lisa Masters were able to produce evidence that absolved them of legal wrongdoing.

At EnerChi, marijuana is not kept in the homely second-floor healing center at 1502 S. College Ave, across the street from the CSU flower garden. Instead, it is grown in an undisclosed location and brought to the registered clientele as needed.

These providers can legally sell marijuana to just anyone — only state-registered users of medicinal marijuana are allowed to buy the pot, and even then, it is a bit complicated.

Medicinal marijuana was legalized in the state of Colorado eight years ago with the passage of Amendment 20.

According to the amendment, six plants and two ounces of marijuana can be possessed legally after a patient has registered with the state.

Registration can only happen when a doctor recommends the drug to help chronic pain, nausea or a “debilitating medical condition.”

Deciphering that language into plain English requires a lawyer.

Brian Vicente has been a criminal defense attorney for five years. He is also the director of Sensible Colorado, an organization that seeks to inform Coloradans about the state’s drug policy, as well as advocating reform.

He said that Amendment 20 defines “a debilitating medical condition” as ‘cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome.’

A doctor may also recommend medicinal marijuana for treatment of any chronic pain, nausea, seizures or cachexia, a digestive problem.

Vicente said that specifics involved with providers like EnerChi are not really addressed by the law, but technically they are legal.

Registered users of medicinal marijuana can designate a caretaker to grow their plants for them. That caretaker can grow and possess the drug in larger quantities if multiple users designate it.

“It is assumed that a dispensary designated by multiple users can have as many plants as is allowed for the number of patients,” Vicente said.

Everything stays legal as long as everybody involved can present proper paperwork to the authorities.

However, medicinal marijuana is not legal on a federal level.

“Let’s say you have AIDS and you are smoking a joint,” Vicente said, “the feds can still come and bust you for violating federal law, but federal prosecution is rare.”

The Drug Enforcement Agency has national jurisdiction and can prosecute any user of marijuana on a federal level, as in the Supreme Court case of Gonzales v. Raich in 2005.

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal government has the right to shut down growers, but the ruling did not address cases involving the patient or purchaser.

He said that such cases are extremely uncommon and usually result from large dispensaries coming under suspicion of selling to unregistered users.

Colorado has some of the most restrictive laws regarding medicinal marijuana in comparison with the 12 other states that allow it, Vicente said.

“In California things are a lot different,” he said, which is why Colorado has only 2,000 registered patients, compared to California’s 400,000.

Because this business gets so legally complicated, EnerChi keeps a lawyer on its staff.

The Flemings are designated by several patients as caretakers, which allows them to grow more than an individual, but they are also both registered users of medicinal marijuana.

James Fleming received a doctor’s recommendation for medicinal marijuana because of his chronic asthma.

Some might find it odd that a doctor would recommend a drug that is usually smoked for treatment of respiratory problems, but Pamela Fleming said that marijuana “is an expectorant, so it opens up his airways.”

She also said that he does not smoke, but instead uses a vaporizer to inhale the active chemical in marijuana.

A vaporizer is essentially a heat coil and a tube. When the plant is put next to the heat coil, the user inhales hot air from the coil through the tube over the plant. The hot air vaporizes the active chemical, THC, off of the plant, allowing it to be inhaled without carcinogens.

Since using marijuana, Fleming said his asthma has improved to the point where he no longer needs his inhaler.

Fleming used to inhale a standard asthma medication that contained steroids. Side effects of this medication were high blood pressure and heart murmurs, problems that have not bothered him since his switch to organic medicine.

“Western medicines usually target symptoms, but organic medicine targets the core of the problem,” said Pamela Fleming, who uses marijuana to treat chronic nausea caused by severe digestive issues.

Dr. Robert Melamede, a proponent of medicinal marijuana who calls himself “Dr. Bob,” said that marijuana is among the least toxic drugs known to man — even less toxic than aspirin.

“Many people think that marijuana is only a treatment for pain,” Melamede said. “But it is much more than that.”

He said that the body naturally contains something called endocannabinoids, which regulate all of the body’s systems: digestive, respiratory, immune, etc.

Marijuana contains chemicals similar to these endocannabinoids, and use of the plant, Melamede said, can be beneficial to the body’s regulation of its systems.

This, he said, is why it is a legal treatment for HIV and AIDS, which target the immune system, and in many cases can upset digestion.

Although the positive effects of marijuana are debatable, an overwhelming majority of studies find that any kind of regular smoke inhalation is damaging to the lungs.

Staff writer Trevor Simonton can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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