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Medicine Man: Pierre Werner Continues His Quest To Improve Nevada's Marijuana Reform

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Pierre Werner knows marijuana. He knows how to grow it, clone it, smoke it,
vaporize it and provide it to marijuana patients.

Werner, who is bipolar, is a registered patient in the Department of
Agriculture's medical marijuana program. The Las Vegan has medically used
cannabis for 10 years, three of which were legal.

Ever since voters approved medical marijuana use in 2000, Werner has sought
to follow the lead of California's cannabis (or compassion) clubs. He
started Primary Caregivers and Consultants in 2001, as a way for Nevada
patients to safely access a legal medicine that the state recognizes yet
doesn't provide.

Werner's referral service is the only one in Nevada that offers
physician-approved recommendations for medical marijuana use.

The Department of Agriculture issues licenses to use medical marijuana,
allowing patients to possess up to one ounce and grow their own. However,
the department seems to be secretive about the program, Werner said.

On the DOA's official website, no information about the medical marijuana
program exists. The department also doesn't conduct research on the
program's patients.

Werner's main complaint with the medical marijuana program is intimidation
by the federal government. Referencing the body's tolerance to opiates
compared to marijuana, Werner said the state has an opportunity to conduct
some serious research on medical marijuana patients -- such as addiction,
dangers and benefits.

"This is certainly a failed opportunity to provide even anecdotal evidence
to the benefits of medical marijuana," Werner said.

Jennifer Bartlett, program manager of the state's medical marijuana
program, noted that while her offices have no plans to conduct a study, the
University of Nevada, Reno likely will. However, the federal government
discourages such studies.

Furthermore, regulation is easy to manipulate, Werner said. Since the
program is confidential and oversight is limited, patients might forge a
doctor's signature to gain entry into the program.

This is where Werner's business comes in. He refers qualified patients to
doctors, unofficially helps regulate the program, and plans to conduct and
publish studies.

"I don't know much about Pierre's business, but I do know he has referred a
lot of people in the direction they need to take," Bartlett said.

Due to the program's relative newness, Bartlett said information is not yet
available online. However, her office is working on a related project.

Bartlett noted that the toughest hurdle patients must still leap is
locating medical marijuana.

"The Department of Agriculture cannot help patients find it or a doctor to
refer it," Bartlett said. "They are on their own."

Werner thinks the Department of Agriculture could deputize medical
marijuana providers in the same manner as California. He also notes that no
law prohibits the department from recommending a referral service.

Until his company expands into a compassion club (likely next summer),
Werner will focus on doctor referrals. Over the last six months, he has
reorganized and refocused his company. Cautious, he has moved offices,
branched out to increase plant growth and even became an ordained minister
in the Universal Life Church.

"For reverends in the church of life, we use cannabis as the blessed
sacrament," Werner explained, noting that he looks to open the club under
the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry (which helps groups legally use marijuana
religiously).

As a consultant, Werner checks medical records to ensure potential patients
have a legitimate condition. He also verifies identification, registers
qualifying patients with the Department of Agriculture, and introduces them
to his doctor -- one of 151 in the state who've recommended marijuana. The
complete package costs $250 and annual renewals are $200.

Werner's doctor, who requested anonymity, was initially unwilling to
recommend medical marijuana. But the doctor thought of his patients, who
suffer even with prescription drugs. Some have no true way to avoid pain,
except by smoking marijuana.

Also, most prescription pain relievers are opiates, which are highly
addictive. After about a week, the body's tolerance to opiates builds,
making increased dosages necessary to ease pain, the doctor said. With
medical marijuana, dramatically increasing intake isn't necessary.

"I was reluctant to even do this," said the doctor. "I checked into it and
there was nothing illegal. I figured if the program is set up and monitored
through the Department of Agriculture, then I should make it available to
the patients."

To date, Werner's doctor has only taken severe cases -- Lupus, AIDS,
cancer, amputees, glaucoma and other such medical conditions. The doctor
said other physicians are likely reluctant to recommend the drug out of
fear of losing their license.

But the number of doctors recommending marijuana may soon increase. The
U.S. Supreme Court decided Oct. 14 not to formally consider a Bush
administration request to allow feds to punish physicians who recommend
marijuana.

Of the 40 marijuana patients the doctor advises, all but two or three were
Werner's referrals.

Despite how quickly the state's program may develop, a compassion club is
needed, Werner said. His business is growing, and he alone can't supply
medicine to the increasing number of marijuana patients.

So far, 330 patients have registered with the state of Nevada. They are
allowed to grow up to seven plants each; however, some are not physically
able to. Also, growing doesn't always produce results. This means patients
typically turn to the streets for their medicine.

Until the club opens, Werner -- who can be contacted at 702-328-4420 --
plans to continue his referral business. No matter what, he said his
purpose will always remain the same: to make it safe and easy for patients
to get medical marijuana.

"I've known the plant all my life," Werner said. "This is the perfect
business for me as far as I'm concerned."


Pubdate: Thu, 23 Oct 2003
Source: Las Vegas City Life (NV)
Copyright: 2003sLas Vegas City Life
Contact: obrien@lvpress.com
Website: http://www.lasvegascitylife.com/