Muscular Dystrophy Patient Seeks Cannabis to Alleviate Pain Tonight on “Weed Wars”

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According to Harborside Health Center, this week’s third installment of the popular Discovery Channel reality series will feature a muscular dystrophy patient who turns to cannabis when nothing else is providing the pain relief she needs to live happily.

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Harborside Health Center

Episode 3 of “Weed Wars,” the new Discovery Channel series about Oakland cannabis club Harborside Health Center, will air on Thursday, December 17th at 10 pm. This episode, according to Harborside, includes the moving account of a wheelchair-bound paraplegic patient with muscular dystrophy taking for first dose of medical marijuana to relieve her pain.

Muscular dystrophy is a hereditary condition marked by progressive weakening and wasting of the muscles that gets worse over time. Being religious and conservative, the patient never imagined she would use marijuana. But her prescribed medications ceased to deliver adequate relief, and in desperation, she came to Harborside Health Center for help.

The episode comes on the heels of an article on by health writer Maia Szalavitz that discusses the results of a new study that indicates patients can safely use cannabis while taking opioid painkillers, and the combination allows them to take fewer pills.

The research results, according to the article, were published in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics. The study tracked 21 patients living with chronic pain who were taking either long-acting morphine or Oxycontin twice a day. Adding marijuana to these opioid drugs reduced patients' pain by an average of 27%. The inclusion of cannabis also did not significantly affect blood levels of the prescription drugs. If marijuana had raised those blood levels, it could have increased overdose risk.

With rising concerns about opioid overdose—the death toll associated with prescription painkillers has recently surpassed that of traffic accidents—the new findings are striking. While marijuana won’t replace opioids for the most severe pain, cannabis has advantages. For one, people can’t overdose on marijuana. For another, the risk of becoming addicted to the drug are markedly lower than the risk associated with opioid use.

Harborside says further study should be conducted to determine which patients would benefit most, and to what extent marijuana can actually reduce opioid use. Unfortunately, the Obama administration is currently engaged in a crackdown on marijuana dispensaries in the 16 states that have legalized medical use. Harborside believes the money the government is spending on fighting the states could be used on research.

Not just a Bay Area medical marijuana dispensary, Harborside Health Center provides free services such as acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, yoga and counseling as part of Harborside’s holistic approach to patients’ health. Currently, Harborside provides patients approximately 1,820 hours of holistic health services each year—which has an estimated value of $227,500, or 10 percent of the dispensary’s yearly net income.

Harborside assists patients who cannot afford the medicine they need. The Oakland medical cannabis club has donated over $643,000 in free medicine to its qualified low-income members over the past four years through its Care Package program. Harborside also offers weekly seminars to teach patients how to grow their own medicine.

Another way Harborside has helped patients financially is through its Rewards Card program. When the State Board of Equalization ruled in 2006 that dispensaries must pay sales tax, Harborside immediately implemented the program to help mitigate the extra cost the sales tax created.

Harborside believes in supporting the community and helping people stand up for their rights. Over the last four years, the health center has donated over $340,000 to other cannabis-related non-profit organizations and efforts to better the local community. At Harborside’s in-house Patient Activist Resource Center, patients are taught basics of activism and lobbying, and in turn, they receive a free gram of medicine for each hour worked.

These practices have earned Harborside industry-wide accolades and media attention. The New York Times calls Harborside “a model for the medical marijuana industry,” while Fortune Magazine says Harborside is showing “the rest of the nation how such an establishment could provide top-flight patient services, adhere to the letter of the law, and interact with the surrounding community beneficially.”

Discovery Channel’s “Weed Wars” focuses on Oakland’s Harborside Health Center—which has set the gold standard for medicinal cannabis dispensaries in the nation—and the leadership behind Harborside: activist, founder and Executive Director Steve DeAngelo. DeAngelo’s lifelong mission has been to bring the truth about the cannabis plant to the American public.

The show follows the DeAngelo family and Harborside’s staff as they fearlessly wrestle with the complex issues they face every day. The series accurately captures the real-life drama and high stakes of the California-voter-approved business as federal agencies make increasingly harsher threats and IRS audits attempt to shut down the Oakland cannabis dispensary.

In addition to focusing on Steve DeAngelo, his family and the staff, “Weed Wars” follows the journey of the plant itself from seed germination to harvesting. Audiences will meet the growers and “patient farmers” whose job it is to provide the “medicine” that will be eventually purchased and used by thousands of clients, many of whom feel their lives have been forever changed by the plant.

Discovery has announced it will rerun last week’s controversial episode “Federal Crackdown” immediately prior to the new episode.

About Harborside Health Center:
Founded by national cannabis leader Steve DeAngelo in 2005, Harborside Health Center is the not-for-profit model medical cannabis dispensary in the country. The Oakland holistic healing center and medical marijuana collective offers its 94,000 registered patients free holistic health services, lab-tested medicine and education.

“Out of the shadows and in to the light” epitomizes DeAngelo’s mission to enlighten the public on the many medicinal and therapeutic benefits of the plant. DeAngelo is recognized as a national leader and strategist of the cannabis reform movement. He speaks and writes widely on the subject. Harborside and DeAngelo are featured on “Weed Wars,” now airing on The Discovery Channel.

For more information about Harborside Health Center, call (510) 533-0146 or visit

For more information about “Weed Wars” or the information in this release, contact Gaynell Rogers at (415) 298-1114 or Linda Stokely at (707) 981-4407.


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