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INSIDE STORY: Highs and Lows of Medical Marijuana

Next Tuesday, California voters will decide if marijuana should be legalized for recreational use. At first, many people backed Proposition 19. Now, polls show that support slipping.

In 1996, the sale and use of medical marijuana became legal. Since then, more than 40,000 people across the state got a medical marijuana card. More than 2,800 people in Riverside County have gotten a medical marijuana card. In the last year, an estimated 157 people got one.

No matter what happens at the polls on election day, you can get marijuana if you have a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana. The question is, how easy is it to get it? We sent healthy patients undercover to find out. The answer may surprise you.

On Oct. 12th, we sent a KESQ photographer into Coachella Valley medical marijuana collectives. Our intention was to see if any would offer to sell us medical marijuana without a doctor’s recommendation. None of the locations did.

During our visit to Desert Organic Solutions, we asked the employee at the front desk how easy it is to get a card, she replied, “Easy. Very”. We then asked her, “What if like I don’t have medical issues?” Rather than responding by saying Medical Marijuana is only for patients with serious medical conditions, as the law stipulates, the woman replied by saying, “Well, everybody has medical issues.”

After Gary Cherlin who runs the collective heard what his employee said, we asked him for an interview. He didn’t want to talk to us on camera. He kicked us off the property. His collective did however give us a business cards to a local doctor. Out of the four collectives, three of them told us to go to Dr. Anthony Streutker.

So later that day, a different KESQ photographer went to go see Streutker. The doctor is from the Los Angeles area and has been practicing medicine more than 10 years both here in the Valley and in L.A. He doesn’t have an office here now so he uses the back warehouse area of a North Palm Springs Hydroponics store. The store sells equipment to grow plants and marijuana.

Once inside Dr. Streutker asked, “What’s your medical issues?” Our photographer responded by saying, “Honestly, I don’t have any.” The doctor quickly replied with, “Well, you can tell me that.” Instead of stopping the exam and turning away our healthy patient the doctor continued to prod our undercover patient.

Finally after several minutes of small talk between the doctor and our patient, a minor wrist sprain is brought up. The doctor almost interrupts our patient by saying, “And, you used painkillers for that once in awhile? It keeps you up at night and you don’t want to take pills? When did it happen?”

Our photographer said 2001, implying an injury from almost 10 years ago. After talking with the doctor for 10 minutes and handing over $100, our photographer had what was needed to buy medical marijuana, a recommendation from Dr. Streutker. The law clearly states medical marijuana patients must have a serious medical condition and show medical history. Dr. Streutker gave our photographer a medical marijuana recommendation knowing our healthy patient had neither.

Paul Chabot is with Coalition for Drug Free California. He said he’s not surprised by our experience with Dr. Streutker. “There’s a lot of money out there. Doctors charge anywhere from $75 to $125. They’ll give it to you for hair loss, itchy skin and high heel pain.” Chabot goes on to say, “The intent and purpose was never to help the terminally ill. They are standing on the backs of sick people in order to get overall drug legislation.

Stacy Hockenatal founded CannaHelp, another medical marijuana collective in Palm Springs. We went undercover to his place as well. His employee sent us to Alternative Care Clinics in Palm Springs. When our undercover patient tried seeing a doctor, he was denied because he couldn’t provide his medical history. According to the law, Alternative Care Clinics did the right thing by turning us away. Hockenatal says, “When you have doctors not operating to the ethics standards, it’s a disheartening fact to know.”

KESQ News Team

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