Pot patients extol drug’s medical benefits, despite ban in unincorporated SB County

JESSE B. GILL

Ffffffffffp!

That’s the sound Scott Bledsoe makes when he takes his medicine.

Bledsoe, 39, helps run a medical marijuana buying club out of his Crestline home. The members – there are about 10 – pay dues, buy medical marijuana in bulk and meet once a week to share what their money has bought.

Members must have medical marijuana recommendations from their doctors to enter Bledsoe’s home during meetings. The group does not provide – nor offer – marijuana to people without the recommendation.

Bledsoe, a Florida transplant, said he uses marijuana to treat depression and anxiety. He is also an activist who wants to see marijuana legalized in San Bernardino County for medicinal uses.

But in recent weeks, the county has made it tougher – though not impossible – for patients to get their hands on medical marijuana through land-use restrictions already seen elsewhere in the state.

Such restrictions ban dispensaries and collectives in places where cities haven’t already.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a land-use ordinance March 22 that bans medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives in unincorporated areas.

Those areas include communities such as Mentone and Bloomington.

Supervisors also restricted the cultivation of the drug by legitimate patients to indoors only.

“Effectively, it shuts down access to collectives, it shuts down outdoor growing, and we suffer,” Bledsoe said, adding that the county has ignored the needs and concerns of medical marijuana patients in crafting the land-use code.

“We want sensible regulations, not outright bans or regulations so restrictive that we can’t obtain medical marijuana,” he said.

That argument does not appease county officials.

Land-use codes are not established to provide patients access to any drug, county spokesman David Wert said.

“It’s not the county’s job to make sure that people have access to medical marijuana,” he said. “Our job is to adopt a responsible land-use code, which is appropriate in regards to the needs and concerns of the neighbors.”

Wert noted that the county’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives doesn’t make it impossible for patients to obtain medical marijuana. Patients can obtain it at “certain medical facilities” and are able to grow marijuana plants inside their homes, he said.

Bledsoe and two members of his buying club were forthcoming about the health benefits they say marijuana offers them.

Jeremy Weissmiller, 33, of Crestline said he was medically retired from the Marine Corps after a 500-pound pallet of ammunition fell on him and shattered his back when he was serving in Afghanistan in 2001.

“I was diagnosed as an incomplete paraplegic,” he said. “I had lost almost all use of my legs.”

He said he has two 6-inch metal rods holding his spine together.

Weissmiller, 33, wears his military background like a badge of honor. His appearance – a large build with a cleanly shaven head – has gotten him turned away from medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives.

“They say I look too much like a cop,” he said.

Two years ago, Weissmiller said, he looked like an out-of- shape man who couldn’t get out of his wheelchair. That’s because that’s exactly what he was.

Given a litany of heavy medication – including Fentanyl, Percocet and Valium – Weissmiller said his liver swelled so much that doctors told him he needed to stop drinking.

“But I don’t drink,” he said. “It was because of the medication.”

Weissmiller turned to alternative forms of treatment.

“I learned that these medications were keeping me from rehabilitating,” he said. “I was dizzy all the time and it was messing up my liver and it was also messing up my legs some.”

He said he tried acupuncture and massage therapy to ease the pain caused by his accident.

And then he tried the thing he had only tried one other time – marijuana.

The effects were dramatic. He said the swelling in his liver subsided as he weaned himself off his medications. The marijuana eased his pain enough to where he began spending more and more time out of his wheelchair, he said.

Now, Weissmiller said, he doesn’t spend any time in his wheelchair. And he’s lost 80 pounds.

“I’m active and doing things again now,” he said. “And I’m out of the (wheelchair).”

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