Phillip Mol Founded Medical Marijuana Dispensary In Hayward

HAYWARD -- When Phillip Mol was a boy, he dreamed of becoming a physicist
or an astronomer, not an advocate for patients of medical marijuana.

"I never thought I would be the guy trying to change things," said Mol, who
founded the Helping Hands Patients' Center, a downtown cannabis dispensary.

But after he overcame heroin addiction -- on top of severe manic-depression
- -- Mol's career goals took on a higher calling, he said.

Mol, 41, is a leader in the local effort to legalize Hayward's three
downtown dispensaries under city code. His business, opened in October
2001, is aimed at offering cannabis patients an efficient, comfortable
setting, with some of the lowest prices in the Bay Area, he said.

"Some people do it just for the patients," said Jane Weirick, a Hayward
resident and president of the Medical Cannabis Association. "Phil is a
terrific example of this."

But Mol's broader mission, one he calls "Green and Sober," is to help
spread the word about the use of pot to treat the addiction of harder drugs.

"Pot saved my life. It's saving others' lives," he said.

Pot is by no means a cure for drug and alcohol addiction, and is hardly an
ideal solution, Mol said. But for those who continually fail attempts to
clean up through abstinence, a cannabis-only regime can be life-changing,
he said, as it was for him.

"It gets you out of the endless cycle of drug addiction," he said.

Mol, who grew up in Southern California, said he turned to drugs at an
early age as a way of coping with his abusive, now-estranged father.
Without a high school diploma, he joined the Navy in 1979, studied physics
and graduated with honors from the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program in
Orlando, Fla.

The Navy diagnosed him with bipolar disorder, although Mol said he denied
it for years and used drugs to cope. He was discharged in 1983 and
eventually worked as a physics technician at Stanford Linear Accelerator
Center until a mass walkout in opposition to weapons research.

In the mid-1980s, he returned to the Riverside area and worked in the
private sector, doing land survey maps used by civil engineers and urban
planners, among other things.

In 1992, through participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, he stopped using
drugs for two years.

"I was sober, but I was not treated," he said. "All of a sudden, it all
fell apart."

Mol later was arrested in San Francisco for possession of heroin and was
able to convince a judge and a probation officer to let him enter a program
in which he would be given methadone as a way of getting off the heroin.

Mol said he also underwent therapy and used pot; the routine urine tests at
the methadone clinic didn't screen for cannabis, he said.

"In 14 years of 12-step attendance, I had two years of clean time," he
said. "During eight years of Green and Sober living, I have had eight years
of staying off hard drugs, IV drug use and alcohol abuse."

In addition to helping Mol with the addiction, the pot helped him keep down
his regular pharmaceutical drugs used to treat his bipolar disorder.

"Before I was able to stabilize my life on this regime, I was often
suicidal, often barely employable, and a shut-in who hid in his trailer for
days on end," he said.

Weirick said Mol's ideas about treating addiction with pot are becoming
more accepted, although they're not mainstream.

"Anything that helps people get off hard drugs is a good thing," she said.

Mol, who lives in Oakland with his wife of 11 years, came to Hayward as a
patient of the first dispensary, the Hayward Hempery, then owned by Bob
Wilson, one of the region's medical marijuana pioneers.

Upset with the Hempery's new ownership, Mol decided to give patients
another choice by opening his own dispensary. Despite the later opening of
a third dispensary, his patient base has grown to about 50 customers a day.

Mol said he's not making any money, lives in "a security fortress," has had
to give up privacy, works countless hours, and lives with the constant fear
that "any time, the knock (of federal officials) could come on the door."

Marijuana is considered illegal under federal law, although the passage of
Proposition 215 made it legal for medicinal uses in California.

But what makes it all worthwhile, Mol said, is patients like a woman with
cancer from San Jose, or the man with a thrashing disorder, who can
function in society because of the pot.

Pubdate: Wed, 16 Apr 2003
Source: Tri-Valley Herald (CA)
Copyright: 2003 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers