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Officials warn against ads popping up for medicinal marijuana cards

  • Jeff Vachon, of Franklin, smokes medicinal marijuana while in the woods on Saturday morning, April 12, 2014. Vachon, who smokes to dull the chronic symptoms of his arthritis and autoimmune diseases, participated in an online course that promised a patient registration card at completion, despite the cards not being available until next year.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Jeff Vachon, of Franklin, smokes medicinal marijuana while in the woods on Saturday morning, April 12, 2014. Vachon, who smokes to dull the chronic symptoms of his arthritis and autoimmune diseases, participated in an online course that promised a patient registration card at completion, despite the cards not being available until next year.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Jeff Vachon, of Franklin, smokes medicinal marijuana while in the woods on Saturday morning, April 12, 2014. Vachon, who smokes to dull the chronic symptoms of his arthritis and autoimmune diseases, participated in an online course that promised a patient registration card at completion, despite the cards not being available until next year.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Jeff Vachon, of Franklin, smokes medicinal marijuana while in the woods on Saturday morning, April 12, 2014. Vachon, who smokes to dull the chronic symptoms of his arthritis and autoimmune diseases, participated in an online course that promised a patient registration card at completion, despite the cards not being available until next year.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Jeff Vachon, of Franklin, smokes medicinal marijuana while in the woods on Saturday morning, April 12, 2014. Vachon, who smokes to dull the chronic symptoms of his arthritis and autoimmune diseases, participated in an online course that promised a patient registration card at completion, despite the cards not being available until next year.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Jeff Vachon, of Franklin, smokes medicinal marijuana while in the woods on Saturday morning, April 12, 2014. Vachon, who smokes to dull the chronic symptoms of his arthritis and autoimmune diseases, participated in an online course that promised a patient registration card at completion, despite the cards not being available until next year.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

For about 10 years, Jeff Vachon of Franklin has battled arthritis and immune deficiency diseases. Vicodin dulled the near-constant pain, but it made him nauseous, loopy and tired.

He’s been using marijuana to treat his symptoms for the past two years, and he’s eager to register with the state’s medical marijuana program.

“I don’t want to feel like a criminal,” he said.

Vachon is so eager to stop buying his medication on the black market, he nearly sent $268 last week to a stranger who promised to get him a patient registration card in July. State regulators, though, have yet to even define the rules that will govern how patients apply for those cards. And the card will probably not be available until 2015, or later.

Medical marijuana activists and law enforcement don’t agree on much about the law the Legislature passed last year. But they do agree that dozens of ads springing up online promoting legal access in July are suspicious at best and possibly predatory.

The most vigorously promoted scheme works entirely online. The ads started popping up in January, advising patients to start their relationship now in order to qualify for a card in July when a legislative committee is expected to approve the rules.

Other ads online tout classes, books and videos for people interested in opening dispensaries in New Hampshire.

Chief Andrew Shagoury of the Tuftonboro Police Department serves on the advisory council that recently approved a draft set of rules for patient registration cards, and hasn’t yet taken up the rules to govern dispensaries.

Legally, he said, it’s hard to determine if the classes and clinics are criminally fraudulent.

“I can’t say they are doing anything illegal but the rules are not in place . . . so I don’t know what they could be telling people,” Shagoury said. “Caveat emptor. Buyer beware.”

Matt Simon, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, has seen the ads. When they pop up on Facebook, he’s quick to post underneath, telling people that state officials haven’t finished the rules yet, and cards probably won’t be issued in July.

But he understands why someone might call, given the law’s requirement that patients are certified by a doctor or advanced practice nurse they have had a relationship with for at least three months.

“It is important for patients to be talking to their doctors now. . . . Some doctors are never going to certify. They don’t have to,” Simon said.

If a patient’s doctor opposes certifying, the only alternative is to find another doctor before applications eventually are available, he said.

In California and some other states, doctors can certify patients for medical marijuana use the day they meet.

“In (those) states, you have what are called recommendation mills,” he said.

The website Vachon contacted “has the appearance of being” one, Simon said.

Vachon called a phone number advertised on Facebook. He talked with a man and a nurse over Skype, the online video conference program. A few days later, the man wanted Vachon to send him money via electronic transfer in exchange for being certified for a state medical marijuana card in July.

Two months ago, the state attorney general recommended not issuing any patient registration cards until the dispensaries are open. That may not be until 2015, 2016 or beyond.

Friends more familiar with the new law raised red flags, so Vachon broke off the arrangement before sending the money. He was going to tell friends and other patients about the clinic, but now he’s telling them to be wary.

“I thought it was a good deal, that he was doing a good deed, but it’s false information,” Vachon said. “He’s jumping the gun and doing things that aren’t going to help anybody in July. Three months from now, what are you going to do? People are just going to be out of their money.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

Related

N.H. medical marijuana classes linked to problematic Montana Caregivers Network

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The ads are everywhere, if you know where to look. They’re on Craigslist and on a series of connected pro-medical marijuana websites aimed at New Hampshire residents, promoting classes for patients seeking medical marijuana registration cards. “Get the Card + Get Legal,” an ad reads. “Marijuana is Safe + Effective Treatment for . . . seizures, anxiety, bipolar . . …

Legacy Comments1

The caption under the photo is wrong then,,,,this isnt medical pot...its black market pot.

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