By Bob Bringham
Thousands of medical marijuana patients in the state are left without medical marijuana providers who can serve them. The law has been in effect for less than one year, and during that time, the number of providers has dropped from over 4438 in June of last year to less than 414 today, a drop of over 90%.
“The vast majority of providers (formerly caregivers) have simply dropped out of the system,” says Chris Lindsey, president of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association. “Most left the program out of fear of federal prosecution, but those who are left are finding it is very risky due to aggressive law enforcement efforts around the state, who often work directly with the DEA. It is particularly frustrating because both the state and federal authorities are quick to point out that legitimate patients are not the target of law enforcement activities, and yet they are the very ones most harmed when the only people who can provide to them are targeted,” he said.
Daryl Jones is a patient who lives in Flathead County, Montana. After injuring his spine in 2006, he now has bone spur that pinches the nerves in his neck and results in severe and constant pain. At over 6’, 8”, Daryl has lost nearly 60 pounds since his injury, and his nervous system is under chronic stress due to the damage to his spine. Daryl says he used marijuana to increase his appetite and to lessen the stress his body is under. To make matters worse, Daryl does not have insurance and he does not qualify for public assistance. Daryl is left to find medical marijuana providers who can work with his extremely limited income.
Over, the past year, Daryl received the assistance of two separate providers who were able to work with him. However, the first stopped working as medical marijuana providers and dropped out of the program. He was referred to a second provider in the area, however she was recently raided by state law enforcement officers and is no longer allowed to have plants or patients according to the judge in her case.
“What am I going to do now?” asks Daryl. “I have no idea where to turn, and there is nowhere for me to find another provider in the state, especially one that will work with me for free,” he said. “I cannot grow my own marijuana, because the property owner is afraid her property will be seized. Even if she did let me grow, I could not afford the cost of the equipment or the utility costs that would come from growing it myself.”
Daryl is no longer a member of the registry as a patient because his pain clinic recently changed policy, and will no longer make medical marijuana recommendations for him or anywhere else. He has since sought a recommendation from a dedicated medical marijuana clinic, and he is waiting on a decision. “But even with a recommendation, I am in a catch-22 situation,” he points out. “All the providers are leaving or getting in trouble, and it is not possible for me to grow my own. Is this what the voters intended? No, no way. I need help and the state has made sure I can’t get it.”