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Carisa Cegavske

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August 20, 2013
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Roseburg business opens to dispense medical marijuana

Business hasn’t boomed yet, but customers are steadily trickling into a new Roseburg marijuana dispensary, the owner said Monday.

“I just want a safe environment where people can come and not feel like it’s criminal and they can get their medications,” said Janet Ballard, owner of J’s Green House, 4071 Hooker Road.

Medical marijuana dispensaries were legalized Aug. 14, when Gov. John Kitzhaber, a former Roseburg physician, signed House Bill 3460. Previously, medical marijuana card holders had to grow their own or designate someone to grow it for them.

In a letter accompanying his signature, Kitzhaber said he received many requests to veto the bill and to “a certain extent” shared their concerns. He said the state will have to carefully write rules regulating the dispensaries and warned the bill will not protect anyone from federal prosecution.

Ballard said she has heard positive comments from customers and has not experienced any backlash from neighboring businesses.

“I hope the people of Roseburg support it. If I find that it’s a negative thing, I will close my doors,” Ballard said.

Ballard said she had been looking for work for six months prior to opening J’s Green House.

Her need for work and her personal experience as a medical marijuana user contributed to her decision to open the dispensary, she said.

Although state law already allowed her to use marijuana to relieve pain associated with cirrhosis, Ballard said she had difficulty obtaining it.

“I felt like even though it’s not criminalized in the state of Oregon, I felt like it was,” she said. “As a patient myself, I really appreciate the governor doing this, so I do have a safe, clean place to come and get my medication.”

Ballard said seizure disorders are the number one reason so far for her customers obtaining marijuana. Others who see cannabis patients in Douglas County say pain management is the most common reason.

Rudy Babbino, the owner of a Winston clinic, Pioneer Health Clinic, that helps patients acquire medical marijuana cards, said he hopes to open a dispensary soon.

Babbino has a medical marijuana card because of pain from degenerated discs in his spine. He said because of that he was able to sell marijuana to other card holders, operating in what was then a “gray area” of the law.

Babbino said he believes marijuana is both safe and effective. He said the drug is a better option than potentially addictive opiates like oxycontin.

“Those are just zombie pills. They eventually turn you into a piece of junk. Marijuana doesn’t do that. It’s a natural thing. It grows in the ground. They don’t take it into a lab and break it down,” he said. “It’s much safer. It doesn’t addict you at all.”

A 30-year-old warning from the U.S. Surgeon General states marijuana causes short-term memory loss, hinders learning, inhibits lung function and causes other biological and psychological problems.

Babbino said community members generally seem neutral when they find out what he does for a living. Still, he said many people have negative views about marijuana. He believes that will change but said it will take time.

Joyce Strop, co-owner of Absolute Caring Cannabis Clinic in Roseburg, said she changed her mind about the merits of marijuana after she began working for the Alternative Medicine Outreach Program in Roseburg.

The business helped patients obtain medical marijuana cards but also provided other health services. When it shut down, she and another employee decided to reopen as the cannabis clinic. Strop said she believes the clinic provides an important service.

Strop said she was surprised to discover that the previous clinic’s marijuana-using patients rarely fit her preconceived notions. They included 80-year-old women and professionals.

“All ages of people have come in here,” Strop said. “They’re from all walks of life. There are people that wear uniforms and suits and ties. ... They’re not the typical ‘stoner.’”

Physician Andrew Dorfman sees patients seeking cannabis recommendations at Absolute Caring. He does a circuit around Oregon, serving patients in Roseburg, Bend and Portland, where he lives.

He visits Roseburg once or twice a month and said he sees 20 to 30 patients, usually age 45 or older and mostly suffering chronic pain from arthritis.

Dorfman said marijuana can be a gateway drug to more serious illegal substances, but he said the gate “swings both ways.”

“It’s also a gateway out for people who have terrible pain and are on opiates,” Dorfman said.

He said many of his patients who switch from opiates to marijuana report they handle their pain better and become more active.

“They’ll say they just feel better about their lives. There’s a blunting of life on opiates,” he said.

• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.

It’s also a gateway out for people who have terrible pain and are on opiates.

Dr. Andrew Dorfman
Absolute Caring Cannabis

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The News-Review Updated Aug 20, 2013 12:39PM Published Aug 22, 2013 08:21PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.