Medical Marijuana Advocate Offers Compassion

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Jim Finnel

Cannabis Warrior - News Moderator
Jeff Brink is vice president of the Berrien County Compassion Club, an educational group for medical marijuana patients based in Watervliet. He recently talked to reporter Andrew Lersten about the club, its volunteer efforts and how he has benefitted from the state-approved use of marijuana in treating his chronic pain condition. The club was formed after the state's medical marijuana initiative was approved by Michigan voters in 2008, and now meets at 1 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month, at 366 N. Main St. in Watervliet.

I hear you've had some good turnouts lately.

The last three months we're averaging about 90 to 100, and most of the people have the state (medical marijuana) cards.

So there's got to be more than 100 medical marijuana users in Berrien County.


There are definitely far more than a hundred caregivers and patients in Berrien County.

Tell me why it's called the Compassion Club.

We're a sister organization. Our parent group, so to speak, is the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association. The local chapters are all named Compassion Clubs. There's a Compassion Club in Buchanan. There's a Compassion Cub in Van Buren, just outside Paw Paw. The Cass County chapter is the newest one. It's about us having compassion for the sick, injured and dying people. If you don't have a serious debilitating or life-threatening condition, you will not be able to get your card. The state processes the paperwork at the recommendation of a physician. For me it's about having a soft spot in your heart to help other people.

What are some of the projects the club is working on?

As a club we're very active in the community regarding volunteer work. Our members give a lot of time supporting the Berrien County Cancer Service. Today there was a group of 15 of us who went to the Comcast Cares Day at the VFW in Benton Harbor. It was to give back to the veterans. We did a lot of general cleaning, painting and ceiling tile work. It's our way of saying that we, as patients like me, are very grateful to the state of Michigan for giving us this privilege.

What led to you getting a card?

In '98 I had an accident at work that pretty much destroyed my lower spine. I've had multiple back surgeries over the past 11 years. I have had bone grafts, fusions, rods, screws and a pain pump installed. There's pretty extensive permanent nerve damage, and both of my legs burn like they are on fire, 24-7. I also have a spinal cord implant that sends an electronic pulse and changes the burning sensation to more of a fuzzy sensation. In June, I will go in for an extensive spine reconstruction surgery. I've got a ruptured vertebrae, some crushed disc and bone spurs.

So you got your card in 2009?

Yes. It was early in the process, and it took me about 35 days to get my card from the state Department of Community Health. Patients are waiting up to 120 days now, which is a huge issue for us. The language in the law says they're supposed to give out the card in 20 days. It's a manpower issue. They have three people in the office and they're receiving about 75 requests on a daily basis.

What are some of the myths you still hear about marijuana?

One of the myths I've found to be very false is the alleged addictive nature of cannabis. I've been medicating with this over a year now, and I could stop right now and have no side effects, no withdrawal symptoms, unlike with narcotics. I was in that boat for 10 years, taking insane amounts of narcotics. I got off all the narcotics in late August of 2009.

So for you, the marijuana acts as an analgesic or anti-inflammatory agent?

Yes. I don't smoke cannabis. I make little gel capsules and ingest them, or use it in cooking. By ingestion I get a lot better nerve pain control, and less of the euphoria. It's not about recreational use. The main focus of our Compassion Club is to educate our members, the new members coming in to the program. We know a lot of members from all over the state and I don't know of one who's into it for recreational use.


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Source: heraldpalladium.com
Author: Andrew Lersten
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• Thanks to MedicalNeed for submitting this article