In 2002, Tracy Sirrine was returning to Spokane from Seattle when she was pulled over. The officer found drug paraphernalia and cannabis during a search of her car.
Sirrine was bringing medical cannabis for her sister from Green Cross Dispensary, at the time, one of the state’s only medical marijuana providers. And she had a valid designated provider card, which allowed her to purchase and transport it.
“Back then, the officer didn’t care that I had a card, and I was terrified I was going to get arrested,” she said.
Today, Sirrine is the founder and CEO of Patients for Patients Medical, a Spokane Valley-based advocacy organization for individuals seeking help navigating the often-confusing and complex medical cannabis system.
“It’s not really my job; it’s my passion,” Sirrine said.
Patients for Patients focuses on educating clients about the different types of cannabinoids (natural compounds that create different mental or physical effects); helping them understand their rights as consumers, and reviewing the legality of their medical authorization to use cannabis.
The services can be valuable especially since Sirrine said many Washington doctors don’t want to write authorizations for medical marijuana, often due to fear of losing funding. Most preferred providers receive federal funds, which could be jeopardized by providing marijuana access, something currently illegal at the federal level.
Here’s how Washington’s authorization system works:
• Patients and their doctors determine that medical cannabis could help with specific medical conditions.
• The providers refer their patient to Patients for Patients or similar authorization entities in the area. (Other Spokane-area options include Green Wellness Naturopathic Clinics and Green Star Cannabis)
• The patient calls or emails to schedule an appointment. The clinic also wants to see medical records from the last five years showing their qualifying medical condtion, which the patient or their provider can gather.
If someone doesn’t have a primary provider, records from a chiropractor, naturopath or similar complementary/alternative provider can be included.
• This authorization must be performed each year, unless the patient was diagnosed with PTSD, which may require more frequent visits. The annual visit lasts an hour and costs $150.
• If an authorization is granted, the patient can take it with them to a retailer.
Patients for Patients Medical has locations in Spokane and Yakima. Both offices are open weekdays but appointments f or medical marijuana authorization only take place twice a month in each city.
Sirrine employs a naturopath who reviews the patient’s medical records, and advises him or her on the best course of medical marijuana treatment.
“We discuss the number of plants that a patient can grow; I educate them on the different types of cannabinoids including salves and tinctures we sell,” Sirrine said.
She and the staff also share strategies for other activities that can include cannabis such as travel. Advocacy services are also available if a patient needs extra help resolving a specific situation.
This fall, Patients for Patients Medical will start a series of classes designed to empower people to better understand their rights, plus practical tips on growing their own supply.
“My ultimate goal is to teach patients how to grow and produce the medicine they need to keep themselves healthy, and to continue to be an advocate for them,” Sirrine said. “I have given every patient my personal cell phone number. I do it because it’s important.”
As for that 2002 traffic stop? The possession charges were dropped, but she was still charged with a misdemeanor for drug paraphernalia.
Sirrine was out of work for more than five years due to a back injury, and when she returned to the workforce, she found that the paraphernalia charge hindered her ability to apply for work in healthcare
“It was difficult to get a job back then,” she said.
Then again, this situation may have pushed her toward realizing that patients needed an advocate. Through her advocacy for her sister, Sirrine saw how patients were using cannabis as medicine, and the kind of relief provided.
“Their quality of life improved,” Sirrine said. “I’m part of that now.”
For more info visit patientsforpatientsmedical.com
Understanding Washington’s medical marijuana database
When a doctor and his/her patient decide that becoming a medical marijuana patient is in the patient’s best interest, there are certain decisions that have to made.
• If they want to seek a medical marijuana authorization from a healthcare practitioner. This allows them to grow up to four plants legally.
• If they want to register with the state medical marijuana database and receive a medical marijuana card. This allows them to grow up to six plants, or even 15 with proper medical authorization; provides a small discount on cannabis and cannabis-related products from a licensed retailer; and allows them to purchase plants, seeds, or clones from licensed producers.
• Some cannabis users don’t want to register due to privacy concerns about as many as five state agencies potentially having access to their medical and personal data.