By Abby Hancock
7:11 PM AKST, January 30, 2013
More Alaskans are turning to medical marijuana and the state's medical marijuana registry has grown significantly in the past year. Larry Yingling, says he uses medical marijuana to relieve the lingering pain from a broken neck, fractured spine, and other injuries he received during army training more than five years ago. He obtained his medical marijuana card after receiving a recommendation from a physician through The Healing Center Medical Clinic in Anchorage.
"I was like, that's me. Because I always wanted one. And I knew it was right, morally," said Yingling.
The clinic opened last year and provides patients with a physician's recommendation for medical marijuana, which patients must present to the state for approval. During its first year in Alaska, the state's medical marijuana registry saw a 230 percent increase. In 2009, the state processed 56 medical marijuana applications, according to Phillip Mitchell, section chief for vitals statistics in Alaska. In 2011, 273 cards were issued. More than 900 cards were issued in 2012, said Mitchell, the same year The Healing Center Medical Clinic opened its doors. As of January 2013, the state's medical marijuana registry is approaching 1,500 people.
Under state law, a patient with a medical marijuana card can legally possess one ounce of marijuana or grow up to six plants as long as no more than three of the plants are flowering. Buying and selling marijuana is illegal, so patients must grow it themselves or rely on a cannibis caregiver.
"You can't buy it, but you can give it," said Yingling. "I'd love to see dispensaries up here."
Many patients who use medical marijuana say they rely on each other and have to network since the law does not address how patients are supposed to obtain the cannabis, once they have a card. Adrienne, an Anchorage woman who wouldn't disclose her last name, has created an online side job, delivering homemade pot products to medical marijuana card holders. She makes at least 70 deliveries a week.
"what the state is kind of forcing us to do is to work as a community because of the fact that there isn't a dispensary," said Adrienne.
Her products are not for sale, as that would be illegal, but she accepts donations. She calls it an "exchange" between other card-holders. They give her the cannabis, she makes the products, and charges a delivery fee. Adrienne must be shown a valid medical marijuana card and ID and says she has turned down a few people who asked about her products for non-medicinal purposes.
When recommending medical marijuana, physicians must consider that too- along with other risks, according to Dr. Ellen Chirichella, a medical oncologist.
"The risks that come with it are also potentially significant, including the risk of pulmonary toxicity, if the patient inhales, the risk of altered state of mind which can put the patient or others at risk, and certainly the risk for the potential for abuse, either by the patient or others close to them," said Chirichella.
More and more patients like Yingling say medical marijuana has given them relief from debilitating conditions. Yingling said it has changed his life.
"It's an all around medicine. It's wonderful."
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