Washington State Cowlitz County: CASTLE ROCK MEDICAL MARIJUA

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CASTLE ROCK MEDICAL MARIJUANA CLINIC OPENS DOORS

CASTLE ROCK -- The Healing Hand of God -- Cowlitz County's first medical marijuana clinic -- opened Monday with little fanfare but a packed patient list.

The small Castle Rock clinic, 27 Cowlitz Street West, does not dispense medical marijuana. Instead it allows patients to be evaluated by a doctor who can write a prescription -- legally called a recommendation -- for medical marijuana.

Monday, clinic staff expected to serve 35 patients with a variety of medical conditions, said owner Julian Robinson. He owns the clinic with his wife, Melissa, while Dr. Robert Billings sees and evaluates the patients. Billings is an emergency room doctor from Tillicum, Wash.

"It's just been so wonderful seeing patients getting the help they need," said Robinson, who also is a registered medical marijuana patient with chronic back pain.

One patient he spoke with Monday afternoon -- who told a reporter she didn't want to be identified -- thanked Robinson for doing away with her need to drive to Vancouver to see a doctor.

"It's those kinds of patients who really touch you," he said. "It's a blessing for us to be able to do this."

On the non-clinic days, the Robinsons will be available for consulting - -- on everything from what to expect on medical marijuana to how to set up a home grow operation. Under state law, people with a valid medical marijuana card can grow a certain amount of their plant for personal use.

Eventually, Julian Robinson would like to organize a co-op of marijuana growers to distribute any excess they might produce.

State lawmakers are still trying to pass a new medical marijuana dispensary law after their last attempt was vetoed by Gov. Chris Gregoire. Even without a dispensary law, though, Robinson said he's been advised that group grows among patients would be legal.

Robinson initially applied for a dispensary business license. He said he'd still be interested in selling marijuana at the Castle Rock site if it ever becomes legal to do so, but for now he's focusing on the clinic and consulting.

Things were running smoothly Monday afternoon, but the business was down to the wire when it came to opening in time for their first appointments Monday. The clinic received verbal approval on its business license late Friday afternoon. A final building inspection will be made Wednesday, when the city's contracted building official is in town, Robinson said.

Police Chief Bob Heuer said Monday that there are no special patrols or enforcement planned for the clinic, which he said will be treated the same as every other legal business in town.

The Robinsons said they intend to be good neighbors to the downtown core and are purposefully not including marijuana in their name or the still-to-be-erected sign. For details or appointments, call 274-4757.

"We want to work with the community," Robinson said earlier this month about the business. "We live here, too."

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