Of the 19 people registered with the state to be medical marijuana caregivers in Hill County, four have registered as of this morning with the city after the passage of a moratorium by Havre City Council May 3. The moratorium passed in the form of an emergency ordinance to ban new medical marijuana grow operations or dispensaries from opening within the city limits. It also banned current operations from expanding. But the city had no way of knowing the number of operations actually within its limits, so the ordinance also required caregivers to register the location and number of patients of their businesses with the city by today at 5 p.m. If operations are discovered that have not registered, the operator can be fined up to $500 and spend six months in jail for the misdemeanor of not following the ordinance. The goal of the six-month moratorium is to give the city time to revamp zoning codes and integrate medical marijuana grow operations and dispensaries into the overall picture, regulating the businesses to address community concerns. Moratoriums like Havre's are having a negative effect, though, the founder and executive director of Montana Caregivers Network contends. Instead of limiting the availability of medical marijuana, cities should let it be available for patients. Doing so would cut down on the black market sale of the herb, Jason Christ said Thursday when he was in Havre for a clinic. The demand is so high that it cannot currently be met, and he predicted that the demand will continue to rise. "How could the state of Montana not benefit from this? This is huge," he said, for both the economy and health care. "It seems like this is a billion dollar industry that is untapped," he said. Local regulation of zoning issues is warranted, he said, but disclosure of medical marijuana operations is not. To do so creates a safety issue, he said. Likewise, patients should not have to disclose their status. People don't have to disclose that they take prescription medications, he said, and neither should medical marijuana patients. Eventual ly, the st igma attached to marijuana will lessen, he said, as people become more educated. "Be patient," he said. For the most part, caregivers are self-regulating, he said. "These are the people that want to follow the law," he said. The very things Christ praises are things that have caused concern for area residents who have questioned the validity of the large number of patients and the big business that growing and providing the herb has become. The argument that voters never intended for a vote of compassion to turn into a business is refutable, Christ said, adding that the people his organization serves are voters, too. "And we don't see punk kids coming through," he said. The average age of patients seeking information and help through MCN is 45. The younger patients have valid medical ailments that make them eligible for their green cards, he said. Between 3 and 5 percent of people requesting their green cards are turned away because they don't have a valid reason for one, Christ said. Seeing the young people looking at lives of pain and suffering is difficult, he said, tears forming in his eyes. "That's how my life has been," Christ, who suffers from Celiac and Crohn's diseases, said. In his 30s, Christ experienced severe abdominal pain for years, but didn't begin using medical marijuana to curb it until recently. After going through the process of becoming a patient and finding it difficult to receive conclusive answers to his many questions, he founded the caregivers network, a nonprofit organization with 20 employees. "And my goal is not to make money," he said, but rather to ease suffering and end pain. Christ wouldn't speculate about the clash that many view as immanent between the Legislature, local governments and caregivers. He did say that he is part of a committee formed by the state to measure residents'
4 med marijuana businesses registered with city of Havre
Published: Friday, May 14th, 2010
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