Apr 192009
Authors: Emily Johnson

Though the issue of medical Marijuana continues to be a point of political and moral debate, there’s a new emerging trend among care-givers that’s helping to legitimize their role in patient care.

“It’s not just about growing a bunch of weed because we can,” Tina Valenti said.

Valenti is a medical marijuana care-giver in Fort Collins. By law, she’s allowed to grow marijuana and distribute it to registered medical marijuana patients in Colorado.

While there are restrictions on the amount of marijuana that care-givers and patients can grow and posses according to Amendment 20, there are no clear guidelines that define a care-giver’s role.

“Right now, anyone can be a care-giver,” Valenti said.

Care-givers must be at least 18 years of age, but there is no requirement that they have medical training or background.

CSU students who feel they might qualify for medical marijuana privileges face more restrictions than the general public.

“It’s not a free pass,” Kathy Harward, Director of Student Legal Services, said. While there’s no law against possessing a medical marijuana card, it is against school policy to “medicate” on campus. It is also illegal to grow marijuana on campus.

“It’s still illegal under federal law so there are risks involved in for students relying on the card to protect them,” Harward said.

Calvin Gordon, a Fort Collins resident is interested in becoming a care-giver after seeing first-hand the effects of medical marijuana.

“My mother was dying of breast cancer and had no appetite. No matter what I bought from the store, she wouldn’t eat. She was wasting away,” Gordon said.

Desperate for something to revive her, he illegally obtained some marijuana and administered it to her via vaporizer. The effects were immediate.

“She grabbed my arm asked me to make her something to eat.” Within days Gordon’s mother had regained a healthy appetite.

“I firmly believe that using marijuana medicinally added several more months to her life,” Gordon said.

His passion is to help others in the same situation.

“People need help and comfort when chronic pain and debilitation sets in. Sometimes pharmaceuticals just don’t work, or they become addictive,” Gordon said.

Gordon intends to draw from his botany experience to produce high quality organic medicinal marijuana for his patients. He also wants to offer something else.

“I’ve been though this. I understand. It’s about more than just medical relief,” Gordon said.

Taking the time to talk with his patients and offer emotional support will be an important component, he said.

With a psychology degree and a background in massage therapy, Tina Valenti uses a holistic approach to treating her patients’ debilitating medical conditions.

“My goal is achieving balance and connection with them,” Valenti said.

Her services include access to marijuana in various forms in addition to therapeutic massage, and mental and emotional support. She works closely with a team of diverse and progressive doctors and health care practitioners in an effort to make a variety of resources available to them in their approach to daily wellness.

She wants to see more focus on the overall health of medical marijuana patients.

So does the Colorado Board of Health. In response to Colorado’s growing number of licensed patients and care-givers it’s proposing new rules to regulate medical marijuana care-givers.

Currently, there are more than 4,000 registered patients in Colorado, and 68 percent of them have designated a primary care-giver to have substantial responsibility for managing their care and grow marijuana for their medical needs as opposed to growing it themselves.

The Board of Health wants to require care-givers to provide other services to their patients besides marijuana-related ones, including transportation, housekeeping, meal preparation, shopping and making medical care arrangements for patients.

A five patient per care-giver limit is also being considered.

In June, a hearing will be held in Denver to receive public comments on proposed rules further defining the term “care-giver” and clarifying the phrase in Amendment 20, “significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient.”

Staff writer Emily Johnson can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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