Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

February 27, 2010
Pot docs offer contrasts on medical use evaluations

Hempcon_7.jpg Dr. Frank Lucido, a Berkeley family practice physician and a leader in the medical marijuana movement, likely wouldn't have been pleased with last weekend's scene at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

In a Sacramento Bee story about medical marijuana physicians, Lucido complained about "quick-in, quick-out mills that pretty much give out cannabis recommendations to anyone 18 or over that has the money."

There seemed to be few such concerns at the booth for the Nature Medical Center, which operates two L.A.-area pot evaluation clinics.  At the Hemp Con 2010 convention, it greeted hundreds of medical cannabis seekers who handed over $45 for first time recommendations and $25 for renewals.

Medical staff questioned people for about five minutes at a time about general health conditions and whether they believed they could benefit from marijuana use, according to interviews and observations. The Nature Center staff declined comment.

In contrast, Lucido charges $250 for an initial evaluation and $225 for a renewal. He says he pre-screens prospective marijuana patients in a telephone interview, requires medical records and conducts a 45-minute physical examination. He shares a story of examining one man, who sought permission to use medical pot, and discovering that he had a cancerous tumor.

An ardent proponent for marijuana as "a safe and effective medicine" for a wide variety of ailments, Lucido isn't high on clinics that appear to churn out recommendations like printing presses.

But seeking a quickie recommendation at the L.A. convention suited Sylvia Hatfield, 57, of Monrovia, just fine.

"This is great - because I wouldn't dare ask my own physician," Hatfield said.

Pictured: Medicinal seekers line up for evaluations at Hemp Con 2010. Ken Hively/Special to The Sacramento Bee.

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