Thirty-seven year old Michigan resident, Chad Carr, is one of the many local faces in the world of medical marijuana. Chad is one of a team running a compassion club, a space for medical marijuana users and their caregivers to meet and offer mutual support. The club meets at the Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham once a month. Chad says, “I’ve always been something of a freedom fighter in my mind (and) I just decided this was an issue I could pick up, one where I could help a lot of people.”
As with other states supporting the legal use of medical marijuana, Michigan local governments vary in the support they give to the community and how and where that support is given.
Take marijuana dispensaries as an example. In West Bloomfield, a whole string of planning meetings failed to agree on a location for dispensaries. The response by many of the ‘powers that be’ in these communities is to call a moratorium – and these can legally last up to twelve months, thereby neatly sidestepping the issue. In other townships and communities, dispensaries are simply prohibited; such is the case in Birmingham. Throughout the Country it’s folk like Carr who help patients and their carers to find a way through the quagmire.
So what is it about this polite and quietly spoken man that qualifies him for the role he has taken on? Well, back in 2008, Carr was recovering from a series of surgeries begun in 2007. Concerned about the prescribed analgesics (Vicodin and Darvon), which are known to be habit forming, yet suffering from pain that didn’t exist before his operations, he decided to try marijuana. He found it worked very well indeed.
Eager to stress his ‘ordinary guy’ status, Carr draws on the fact that he has a wife and son to illustrate that all he is trying to do his have the public understand that marijuana is a powerful medicine and should be treated as such, rather than viewed as a purely recreational drug. He acknowledges that federal law sets hurdles to overcome in realising his ambition to see cannabis and drugs based on it regulated in the same way as other pharmaceuticals. In his words, “It’s unreasonable to expect pharmacists to start handling dried flowers, extracts and tinctures again.”
And, as Carr observes, the paucity of recent research means that it will be a long time before doctors prescribe and pharmacies dispense marijuana-based medications. However, there is so much anecdotal evidence to support the fact that cannabis provides safe and effective relief from a whole host of medical conditions it has become imperative that patients can access this medication safely, without having to resort to dark alleys and the black market.
Of his Compassion Club, Carr says that each month between 30 and 50 people show up, ranging in age from young to old – and, he says, there are a lot of old people. That stands to reason, as we get older we are more likely to suffer from chronic pain, something that marijuana treats very effectively indeed. He believes that patients actually prefer this type of set up – a discreet and safe environment where people can meet and support one another – to a store ‘with a large green cannabis leaf in the display window.’
The Birmingham Compassion Club meets once a month between 6 and 9 pm in the downstairs Rotary room at the Baldwin Public Library, 300 W. Merrill St. Meeting is open to the public.