$300 fee weeds out recreational pot smokers
Chris T. Wilson
An Ojai-based medical marijuana cooperative has recently announced the opening of registration for new members.
Shangri La Care Cooperative, technically a horticultural social club that operates within the guidelines of California state law, offers memberships to medical marijuana patients. SLCC then provides education, support and access to organically grown medical cannabis through its member network.
Chartered to have up to 99 founding members, the cooperative’s founder and president, Jeff Kroll, said the co-op is in the process of accepting 25 new members into the one-and-a-half-year-old group. To qualify for membership, applicants must have a doctor’s written recommendation to use medical marijuana, be at least 21 years of age and pay a one-time $300 fee. Member information is kept strictly confidential.
The $300 fee, not only weeds out the recreational pot smokers from joining, it also covers the costs of initial double-blind study in which the patient meets with the organization’s directors and discusses their symptoms to determine which cannabis strain and preparation will work best in relieving symptoms.
For example, a patient with chronic pain may take a concentrated extract or tincture, or ingest cannabis in the form of an edible, like a brownie or cookie made with medical cannabis, while a glaucoma patient may smoke or vaporize dried cannabis buds to relieve debilitating pressure in their eyes, Kroll said. The fee is waived for hospice patients and is reduced or waived for disabled members.
“This is about members helping members,” Kroll said. “Everything we do in the cooperative, all members have a vote. We’re interested in the science, the studies and anecdotal evidence that shows the benefits of medical marijuana. I’m 60 and I’ve had health issues where cannabis got me out of harm’s way. Every member can tell stories about how they feel it’s been a real lifesaver for them.”
From late-stage cancer patients on hospice to sufferers of the chronic aches of fibromyalgia and a range of ailments for which cannabis has been shown to provide relief, Kroll said the members of SLCC work cooperatively to help each other find better health and wellness — and not just from getting access to legalized pot. Kroll said that the member gardeners are also raising organic fruits and vegetables that are shared among the members to promote overall health and wellness.
“We’ve got 11 organic gardens that are dealing with the health issues of picking fresh vegetables and then consuming them within four hours to get the maximum benefit of the living plant’s electrolytes,” Kroll said. “Living beings get the most benefits from eating live food that hasn’t begun the decay cycle and the enzymes start to break down.”
It took Kroll and a handful of other founding members about six months to go through the paperwork to become a California state-compliant medical marijuana cooperative. Also licensed as a collective, he said he’s open to the idea of creating a dispensary in Ventura if and when the city ends its moratorium and establishes guidelines for medical marijuana collectives and dispensaries.
One of those founding members, who asked to remain anonymous, has been suffering from painful kidney and bladder disease for more than 30 years. Now nearly 60 years of age, he said he had a hard time coming to terms with the idea of using medical marijuana.
“I had some friends who kept telling me that I should do edibles, but I fought the whole thing,” he said. “When I was in school, I played around with pot, but I didn’t want to be walking around in a daze all the time.”
But after realizing that the ultimatum was a surgically inserted morphine pump, or more pills, or even more drastic surgery, he gave in.
“I had done morphine, Vicodin, Percocet, codeine, acupuncture and Chinese herbs and nothing worked,” he said. “It took almost three years to convince me. Now I make my own stuff and it works for me. I make a tincture extract that I take at night and it brings my pain down to a tolerable level.”
The science behind the 400 or so compounds found in cannabis has been of interest to this founding member and to Kroll. Another way SLCC stands apart is by placing a strong emphasis on scientific testing of the plants its members cultivate. Independent labs such as Strain Genius Labs in Santa Monica and Halent Labs in Sacramento provide extensive testing for active ingredient cannabinoid levels, molds, fungus and pesticides. Kroll insists that all the plants SLCC members grow and use are fully tested and organic.
“In our co-op we’re raising the bar for what a cooperative should be,” Kroll said. “Since April, we’ve had a legal team evaluating SLCC and we came out smelling like a rose. Our law firm said we’re the only co-op that they’re aware of that is set up in the way that will be a model for how collectives should function in the future.”
To learn more about the cooperative visit the website at shangrilacarecooperative.org.