The Associated Press, Sept. 26, 1997

Clinic operator vows to keep providing marijuana to the sick

By Bob Baum

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The woman who runs a clinic that dispensed marijuana until it was raided by police this week says she plans to continue providing the drug as medicine to people who need it.

Diane Densmore, who opened the Alternative Health Center nearly a year ago, said she expects to face criminal charges.

"This is a serious business I'm in," she said Wednesday at the small third-floor clinic. "It's not 'everybody gets high' and it's not a party. We are here to heal."

The marijuana was dispensed only to people who had a letter from a doctor documenting a patient's illness, she said.

Police said after Tuesday's raid that undercover officers had purchased marijuana from the center. Police spokesman Cliff Madison said the clinic was selling to virtually anyone who claimed to have an ailment.

"Basically there was very little verification of any sort," he said.

He said undercover officers initially showed phony verification and on a subsequent buy had no documentation.

Densmore admitted she made a profit from the clinic. She said she sold potent marijuana in various blends designed to help specific ailments.

She said about 350 people were "members" of her health center. Densmore said she paid $400 a month in rent for the clinic, a colorful room with a mural of a tropical scene on one wall. The downtown center is accessible by a tiny, cramped elevator. Bowls of chips, crackers and other snacks are on various tables.

"This is a fellowship here. You can feel the vibes just sitting in this room," said Densmore, who takes marijuana herself for chronic back pain.

About a dozen members of the clinic attended a news conference to show their support for Densmore. Three people who identified themselves as AIDS patients said their doctors had provided the proper letters. The doctors knew, and had given their tacit approval, to the patients' using marijuana to ease such symptoms as nausea, weight loss and depression, they said.

"It is a debilitating disease," said Lanny Weinrich, 30, who said he suffers from extreme weight loss because of his AIDS. "I've got to eat. I've got to seek out any way to help me to eat. Anti-nausea medication doesn't work. They make you go to sleep. It's very sad that people don't understand."

Police said they seized six pounds of marijuana and about $3,500 in cash in Tuesday's raid. But Densmore said only about 2 1/2 pounds of marijuana and "no more than $35" in cash was found in the clinic. The rest, she said, was in a vault in the basement.

"That was not mine," she said. "It was found in a huge vault downstairs, which I didn't even know existed, in the basement, along with a fellow who was sleeping in the basement, whom I didn't know either."

Madison said investigators believe the marijuana found in the basement was related to the clinic.

Densmore said she is trying to raise money for legal fees and to buy marijuana for those who have lost their supply.

"Look out everybody, we're on the streets," she said. "We need our medicine."

The case has been turned over to the district attorney's office to determine whether charges will be filed.



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