by John Stanley – Dec. 21, 2011 11:14 AM
The Republic | azcentral.com

Although the status of medical marijuana remains a bit hazy in Arizona, facilities that help people apply for patient cards continue to spring up — including in Gilbert.

The Green Cross Patient Center opened in Gilbert nearly two months ago in a small strip mall on the southern side of Baseline Road, between Gilbert and Lindsay roads.

Owner and director Charles “Chuck” Hall made it clear that the facility is not a dispensary and that there is no marijuana on site. “We are here to help patients get a doctor’s recommendation and to help them with the paperwork,” he said.

He’s also fighting stereotypes.

“We don’t have any Rasta posters on the walls, or pictures of Bob Marley,” Hall said. “This is a medical facility, and marijuana is a safe alternative to some very bad medicines that hurt people.”

According to Hall, the majority of their patients are people in their 40s and 50′s who are seeking relief from chronic pain. Nearly all have tried traditional remedies; many are wary of using potentially addictive pills.

Casey Roberts, a mechanic and assistant manager at a nearby auto shop, was one of Green Cross’ first customers.

Roberts said he has a number of medical conditions, including pain from an extensive facial reconstruction he underwent after suffering a broken jaw and crushed eye socket in the boxing ring.

“I hate taking pills,” he said. “I just refused, and put up with the pain. But I found that marijuana helped.”

Roberts said his doctors had no problem prescribing pain pills, but were reluctant to prescribe medical marijuana. After a couple of run-ins with the law, he was prepared to move to a state where he could get medical marijuana legally.

Then he discovered Green Cross.

“I had heard about these places but never paid too much attention to them,” Roberts said. “But I thought if there was one in Gilbert, and as tough as Gilbert police are on things like this, then it had to be legit.”

The 1,200-square-foot clinic has a reception area/waiting room, with a couple of sparsely-furnished offices and an examination room with a sphygmomanometer (to measure blood pressure) and a tripod-mounted camera.

Patients meet with Dr. Jack Manning, who reviews their medical history, conducts a short examination and discusses what treatments the patient has tried and how medical marijuana may or may not help.

If Manning writes a recommendation, staff at the clinic helps the patient fill out forms, takes photos to go with the application and files the request. Applications can be filed only online.

Green Cross charges $150 for its services. (In addition, the Arizona Department of Health Services charges $150 for the cards, which must be renewed annually.)

Patients may file their own forms, but Hall said a lot of doctors are reluctant to make recommendations for medical marijuana.

“We can do two things here,” Hall said. “We have a doctor who is compassionate and we also do the paperwork. And when bureaucracy goes bad, we take care of it for you.”

Currently the clinic sees about 10 patients a week. The reason it’s so slow, Hall said, is that there’s still so much uncertainty about the law.

He hopes to raise awareness of the clinic, as well as increase its patient load, by giving presentations at the center on some of the legal issues surrounding medical marijuana, its proper use, which strains are better for what afflictions, and other related topics.

One of the reasons they located in Gilbert, Hall said, was because of its favorable demographics. Contrary to stereotypes, its customer base isn’t the stoner crowd.

“(Medical marijuana) is for the soccer mom who doesn’t want to take Percocet,” Hall said. “She can take a tincture in her tea instead of hiding in the back room, smoking a fat doobie.”

Although the main reasons people come in is because of chronic pain and cancer, medical marijuana has been touted as helpful for those with glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, muscle spasms and other afflictions.

Manning, an osteopath who has lived in Arizona more than 40 years, works two days a week at the Gilbert Green Cross center and two days at the north Phoenix center. He also works at another clinic in Flagstaff on Sundays.

He estimated that he recommends medical marijuana for about 90 percent of the patients who request it. Although that may sound like a lot, he said he has seen few people trying to game the system. Part of the reason for that, he thinks, is that the center requires medical records.

About 16,400 cards have already been issued to people in the state, according to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program’s website.

The Arizona Department of Health Services, which issues the cards, has no affiliation with Green Cross or any other third party vendors, said DHS spokeswoman Laura Oxley. Nor does the department track how many people apply on their own or how many use a vendor.

“Our experience has been that people who aren’t as familiar with using a computer sometimes have questions,” Oxley said. “Our recommendation then is to find someone to help, whether that’s a grandchild or a neighbor or someone else.”

She added that patients should always be careful about sharing personal information and that it’s important that the person applying for the card includes a direct email address in case any problems comes up.

Hall knows a lot of people view the center skeptically.

“Preconceived notions are hard to get over,” he said. “I understand that. But if someone you know is coming back from cancer and can’t find relief, then your opinion can change real quick.”
Green Cross Patient Center

When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.

Where: 2401 E. Baseline Road, Gilbert.

Details: 480-420-6582,greencrosscenter.com.

Information about Arizona’s medical marijuana program: azdhs.gov/medicalmarijuana.

One Response to New Gilbert center helps medical-marijuana applicants

  1. Ronald Boyer says:

    I have had chronic back pain since 2001, and have been on 60 milligrams of morphine and 5 milligrams of hydrocodone since then. All the pills do is cover up the pain and don’t always work. That is why I would like to apply for a medical marijuana card.

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