To Om of Medicine, it’s almost as important to be a good neighbor and member of the community as it is to supply medical marijuana to those in need.
That’s why the non-profit cannabis dispensary, located at 112 S. Main Street in Ann Arbor, donated 57,000 pounds of food to Food Gatherers of Ann Arbor through patients’ donations last year, why it is a member of the Main Street Area Association, and why it belongs to the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan.
“We are proof that the negative stigmas some people have just aren’t true in our case,” said Lisa Conine, Community Outreach Coordinator at Om of Medicine, which has been dispensing medical marijuana at the Main Street site since 2010. “We’re proud of what we do, we’re not tucked away. We serve our community. We’re proud to belong to this community.”
Being part of the community includes being transparent to government officials. In its first year in business, Conine says Om of Medicine gave a tour to every Ann Arbor councilmember, the chief of police, mayor, state representative and state senator. Since then, more than 20 government officials have toured the dispensary.
“We want everyone to know what we’re doing,” Conine said. “There is nothing to hide. Transparency is important to breaking down those stigmas. Once people see what we are, those stigmas go away.”
Stigma or not, since being founded eight years ago by Mark Passerini and Keith Lambert, the dispensary has helped countless patients deal with a number of symptoms and many ailments. Among those who purchase medical marijuana at Om of Medicine to ease their symptoms are cancer patients, epilepsy patients, those suffering from fibromyalgia, arthritis, PTSD and others with chronic pain.
Cancer patients who are taking chemotherapy often suffer nausea and other disturbing side-effects that cannabis can soothe. In one recent case, according to Conine, a cancer patient’s results were even more dramatic.
“We had a breast-cancer patient who was scheduled for a mastectomy, who was being treated with a potent cannabis oil,” Conine said. “And, before she had the mastectomy, the tumor was gone. That is a strong case that shows cannabis combats the growth of tumors.”
Om of Medicine provides a major benefit for those suffering with chronic pain: medical marijuana can be an alternative to opiates, which can cause dependency and unwanted side effects such as digestive difficulty and sluggishness.
“We’ve had people come in who have been using opiates for 20 years and who are just tired of it,” Conine said. “And one year later, they are pain free, have more energy and are off opiates.
“The side effects of cannabis are you might get giggly or sleepy or get the munchies, but that’s nothing compared to the side effects of pharmaceuticals, which can be miserable.”
Om of Medicine takes a “consultive approach,” to dispensing cannabis, according to Conine. There are separate rooms where patients go over their symptoms with a staff member, who then recommends what might be the best product for the patient.
Dr. Evan Litinas is the Chief Medical Officer, and Conine says Om of Medicine is the only dispensary in the country with a medical doctor on hand every day taking visits, giving advice on doses, or offering information on how cannabis works on symptoms. Litinas’ services are free of charge to Om of Medicine members.
To become a member at Om costs just $1, which is donated to Food Gatherers of Ann Arbor. Additional donations to Food Gatherers are encouraged. You also must have a Medical Marijuana Patient or Caregiver Card issued by the State of Michigan.
In order to procure a card, a doctor must sign paperwork that is then sent into the State of Michigan along with a $60 fee. It takes 2-4 weeks to get the card after the paperwork is sent in. There are certification clinics throughout the state that have the paperwork, will see patients and decide whether they are qualified to seek medical marijuana for their symptoms.
“We try to get primary-care doctors or specialists to sign the paperwork, but many doctors aren’t willing to do it because of the stigma or they don’t believe in it,” said Conine. “We work closely with Intessa, which is a certification center in Ann Arbor. We do that because they will ensure the paperwork is correct and they charge just $69 to see a doctor.
“Some charge more than $100, and I think that’s robbery.”
Once you become a member, there are different methods of administration of medical cannabis. There is topical cream, edible form, and, of course, marijuana that you smoke.
“It all depends on your preference,” Conine said. “Some patients prefer more than one. It just gives them another tool in their toolbox. Let’s say a person has chronic pain and has trouble sleeping because of it. They could take an edible form about 1½ hours before bedtime, then take a couple hits off of a vaporizer pen just as they’re going to sleep.”
Price structure also varies, depending on product and amount. For instance, marijuana that you smoke costs as little as $10 per gram and can go as high as $350 per ounce; edible capsules are in the $1-$15, depending on potency. Other products, such as hash, cream and oil, also are available.
And, as Conine says, it’s all out in the open. There are local artists’ works hanging on the walls in the lobby, and the entire facility has a soothing, comfortable ambience.
“It’s what we strive for,” Conine said. “Comfort for our patients, and making sure that every one of them gets the help they need.”
For more information, visit http://www.omofmedicine.org/