POST CATEGORY: Profiles

Mike Smith: Owner of The Healing Center Medical Clinic

June 06, 2017 | WES ABNEY

Mike Smith is a longtime medical Cannabis activist whose clinics have authorized more than 20,000 patients since 2007 and more than 5,000 patients across Alaska. The clinic operates monthly in Anchorage and Fairbanks, authorizing the medical use of Cannabis while sharing information about the plant and its many uses. Learn more about the clinics at their site TheHealingCenterMedicalClinic.org

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When did you first start your clinic and what state were you working with patients in?

We started in Alaska in January 2012, overall in 2007, and the first clinic would have been in Montana. I owned dispensaries at the time in Montana, and there were no doctors that were available that were really authorizing patients, so I went to California and recruited a Cannabis friendly doctor. We got him licensed in Montana and eventually in Alaska, and he wrote authorizations for us until he retired from Parkinson’s.

What was it like to get started in medical Cannabis that early, and how did it feel to help bring people access to medicine?

It was great! We ended up having about 30,000 patients total in the state of Montana, and about 5,000 of those came through our own office. It’s the most rewarding thing that I have ever done. To help another person get access to a treatment that they want to have, and to see them a year later and they have dropped half the pharmaceuticals they take, it’s incredible. Ultimately Montana was great until the legislature decided that access for patients was open, and they gutted their medical program in 2011, and it’s been difficult there ever since.

Was Alaska your second state? What did you do when Montana shut down?

We actually went to Arizona first, as Montana was being shut down AZ was starting to ramp up, and we were there for a year. The governor there did everything she could to stop the program, and I was looking for other states to help patients and I found Alaska. When I called the department that handles MMJ cards in 2011 they told me there were only 300 on the registry out of 700,000 people, and I knew there was a need for our service. Our first clinic weekend we saw over 150 people! 

What was the response like in Alaska?

We had a great response, people were very thankful that we had showed up to do this. Many of the patients had asked their normal doctor who may be Cannabis friendly, but they had some reason they wouldn’t sign the document for a patient. Once we got there I literally had people hugging me and crying and thanking us for doing this. Again, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. 

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How do you feel personally about the medical use of Cannabis?

I believe that MMJ can help society in more ways than just medicine, we’re just at the tip of the iceberg right now. We really need to reschedule Cannabis, to let science discover all the potentials that this God given plant can produce for us. The reason I want to get access to people is in my own life many years ago my brother who has since passed had AIDS, and we saw him use Marinol, and it did not work. But when we saw him use Cannabis it did work, so I do this partly as a testament to my older brother Andy, because I have personally seen that the pharmaceutical companies don’t necessarily tell you the truth, they’re just there to get money. This plant is something you can produce at your house, without a pharmaceutical company, and then you can treat yourself for your condition and that in itself is a medicine as well.

Do you think that Cannabis is truly legal? What does legalization mean to you?

If it’s going to be legal it should be legal like carrots. I could open a carrot stand anywhere and sell my carrots to anybody, and if you don’t like carrots then pick a fruit, but that’s not what we have now. We have a very slim window for recreational that is on its way out potentially thanks to the new federal administration, and MMJ is the only thing that the government has openly said is OK under the new administration. So that’s why we encourage everyone to get their card and be as protected as possible.  

What are the benefits to being a patient in Alaska?

The benefit is that right along with the whole subsistence lifestyle of hunting, fishing and living life on your own terms, you can grow your own medicine and not rely on pharmaceuticals or another grower or store. Overall, we have authorized over 6,000 patients in AK since starting! Ever since I started growing I never stopped, and we want to bring that to others, it’s very rewarding to be able to grow your own medicine and use it.

What is the process like to become a patient at your clinic?

The process is a non-invasive visit with a doctor, with basic paperwork like any doctor office. The doctor reviews existing medical records for the condition, approves the use if it meets the condition, issues the patient the paperwork and it’s sent on to the state of AK. It takes them about three weeks, and then a patient is added to the system and issued a card. It costs $225 for a year authorization, but that does not include state fee of $25, and we give every patient free seeds of high CBD strains. We offer a higher plant count and possession limit, which authorizes patients to have up to 24 plants and 24 ounces. Because Alaska skipped having a MMJ dispensary system, and we know most patients aren’t professional growers, this allows them to have enough plants to maintain a garden and make extracts or oils that are essential to use Cannabis medicinally. 

What are your hopes for the future, and what would you like to see change for the world with Cannabis?

I feel honored and privileged to be able to be in the position to help people. And it’s not something I’m walking away from any time soon. We are currently in Colorado and Alaska, due to open in Florida and Ohio, we’re just waiting for the medical boards in those states. We would like to be able to write them in all locations where there are qualified patients in need of this service, in every state at some point. I believe medical Cannabis should come before recreational use. There’s nothing wrong with recreational, I think it’s less detrimental to health and the public than alcohol, but, a big but, my medical patients are the most important thing to me, so I am sticking with that.

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