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Medical marijuana 'believer' helps others

Sunday, May 04, 2003
By The Associated Press
Grants Pass, Ore.

"Brother Bob" Walker wanted to spare others the frustrations he says he endured in obtaining a license to use marijuana to soothe his back pain.

Soon after medical marijuana became legal in Oregon, Walker started looking for a doctor who would help him use cannabis to relieve pain from a 1983 fall that broke his spine. None of the local doctors would help him.

"I spent five months and $700 trying to get a card," he said. The hassle prompted him to found a nonprofit organization to help others get state licenses that allow people with certain medical conditions to legally grow and smoke marijuana.

Southern Oregon Medical Marijuana Network hosts seminars on cannabis and has launched a Web site to promote medicinal uses for the drug.

"I totally believe in what I do," he said, noting that he's helped more than 250 people obtain cannabis cards.

Recently, he rented a meeting room at a motel and brought in Dr. Phillip Leveque, the Molalla osteopath who approved nearly 1,700 of Oregon's first 3,500 medical-marijuana cards.

Oregon's experiment with medical marijuana will mark its fourth birthday this month. Currently, about 4,700 people hold state cards that allow them to grow cannabis plants and keep small quantities of marijuana to treat conditions such as cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis or to relieve chronic pain, nausea or seizures.

With a state population of about 3.5 million, that works out to one card for every 750 people.

But the experiment is up for changes: Last week, the Oregon House approved restrictions on the medical-marijuana program. The bill, which moved on to the Senate, would require patients to inform the state program about their growing sites information that can be furnished to authorized police agencies.

At the recent clinic in Grants Pass, men and women came from as far as Bend, Brookings and Klamath Falls to fill out their paperwork and be examined by Leveque, who was censured by the state Board of Medical Examiners last year for signing applications for patients he never saw. Leveque now travels the state to see patients seeking medical-marijuana cards.

Tony Honeycutt of Brookings said he had used marijuana for years to manage his pain before obtaining a card last year. The 55-year-old Vietnam veteran said he decided to get a card because he wanted to stop feeling like he was breaking the law.

"I don't feel so guilty about what I'm doing now," said Honeycutt, who uses cannabis for relief from stomach problems, an overactive bowel and a gastrointestinal reflux condition.

Others said they were tired of the side effects of prescription painkillers and over-the-counter drugs and wanted to try something different.

"I do ibuprofens by the dozens," said a 42-year-old Klamath Falls contractor who asked to be identified only as Dan. "I have wires and screws all over me," from motorcycle accidents, he said, "an artificial hip and arthritis in every joint in my body."

Dan said he uses marijuana mostly to relax at the end of a day and get a good night's sleep.

On the Web

Southern Oregon Medical Marijuana Network:

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