Durango now has two medical marijuana clinics open, and the owners of the newest clinic hope it helps legitimize
therapeutic uses for the drug in Colorado.
Natures Medicine at 129 E. 32nd Street dispenses medical marijuana.
The center also offers an array of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements and, when the doors opened Monday, two
massage therapists were on duty.
Management also plans to hire a chiropractor, a reflexologist and a physical rehabilitation specialist.
But for the moment, the ability to dispense marijuana is the drawing card.
"People look down on marijuana as a stigma, a stoner's drug," said Drew McNeil, who, with partner Richard Present, founded Natures Medicine in Loveland. "We want to take this (movement) across Colorado so everyone can get medical
The Durango shop and one in Grand Junction are franchises owned by Dusty Higgins, a five-year Navy veteran, who said
he became interested in alternative healing methods after seeing his grandfather die from leukemia.
Another medical marijuana dispensary, Holistic Hemp, also has opened at 711 Florida Road, according to the Durango
City Clerk's Office.
At Natures Medicine, only people on marijuana business can enter the Bud Room, where access is electronically
controlled. There, on a back wall, is a chalkboard where the going prices of different marijuana strains are listed.
Glass cabinets display means of consumption - pipes, bongs, roll-your-own paraphernalia, tinctures, edibles and
vaporizers, which allow users to avoid the heavy, harsh chemicals of the plant.
"We have six strains right now, but we're aiming to have 16," McNeil said, indicating buds in a variety of apothecary
jars. "The indica strain controls nausea, migraines and stomach ailments, while the sativa is good for hard pains or
seizures. I'd use a mixture of the two to control glaucoma."
No on-site consumption is allowed.
Natures Medicine grows 80 percent of its marijuana, but not on the premises, McNeil said. The center also trades with
medicinal marijuana users who grow their own. A patient can grow as many as six marijuana plants - with three or
fewer producing usable marijuana. The user can have no more than 2 ounces of usable marijuana at a time.
Lack of a grand opening Monday at Natures Medicine was made up for by the constant turnover in the waiting room of
what appeared to be middle-aged men filling out a questionnaire. The next step would be a review of their medical
history - at a cost of $200 - by a physician in the next room.
In Colorado, someone licensed to practice medicine - surgeon, psychiatrist and others - and in good standing
professionally must sign an application to use marijuana medicinally. The application, with medical clearance
attached, is sent by the applicant to the department of vital statistics at the Colorado Department of Public Health
In 2000, Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, which authorized the use of marijuana to treat cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, severe pain or nausea, seizures or persistent muscle spasms, such as experienced by those with multiple
The number of applications has shot up since July when the state health board rejected the proposal to limit to five
the number of patients a marijuana supplier could serve.
"I think you can say the number of applications for medical marijuana is skyrocketing," Registrar of Vital Statistics
Ron Hyman said Monday. "Last Friday alone we received 466 pieces of mail."
If the present pace continues, Hyman expects to see 15,000 people with medical marijuana cards by the end of the
As of June 30, the number stood at 8,918 - 72 percent of them male. La Plata County had 110 people with a valid card, up from 80 cardholders July 31, 2008. Denver, Jefferson and El Paso counties have the greatest number of medical
marijuana users - 1,187, 1,023 and 978, respectively. The average age of cardholders is 41.
The health department simply maintains a list of people with a valid need for marijuana.
Health officials don't know how many medical marijuana outlets operate in Colorado, nor does it license them or
Dr. R.D. Chapman, a Grand Junction physician and member of the American Board of Holistic Medicine, was in Durango on
Monday to review medical records of marijuana-card applicants. He is filling in until Higgins can find a local
Chapman scrutinizes an applicant's medical history to make sure it supports the need for cannabis. He said cancer
patients or people who have suffered back or sports injuries are typical of those for whom he signs medical-marijuana
Sharon Brooks, who makes marijuana edibles for Natures Medicine in Grand Junction, was on hand.
She's attended the openings of all three Natures Medicine dispensaries.
"I'm glad to see the use of medicinal marijuana spreading," Brooks said. "I'm Apache, and we've used marijuana in our
tribal rites for years."