As anyone who attended WAMMfest here in Santa Cruz a few weeks ago knows, our beautiful seaside community is very supportive of medical marijuana. Despite a misguided and insensitive federal government that continues to harass the healing herb community, we have some of the most progressive local medical cannabis laws in the world here.
But even here, the high price of cannabis can make it too expensive, and fiendishly out-of-reach for many sick people, as in much of the world, and growing it for one’s self, after an illness strikes, isn’t always easy or even possible.
Thanks to the (WAMM), its founder Valerie Corral, and our supportive community and local government, high-quality cannabis is available to low-income patients in Santa Cruz because they can participate in the process of growing it themselves.
There aren’t very many places on this planet where low-income patients can obtain high-quality medical cannabis, and there is certainly nothing else comparable to WAMM. However, there is another spot in this wayward world where medical cannabis is provided at low-cost for patients who need it--in Israel.
Computer expert and author Mimi Peleg--who was educated by Corral about how the different cannabis strains can be helpful for treating different illnesses, and who learned how to grow cannabis here in Santa Cruz at the WAMM community garden--helped to start the first government-approved, medical marijuana distribution center in Israel. Like WAMM, this compassion-based center also provides low-cost marijuana to patients who need it, in the form of smokable buds, tinctures, and edibles.
“After learning all about compassionate, patient-based medical-cannabis cultivation and distribution during my years as an apprentice of Valerie Coral at WAMM...I was privileged to return home and work alongside many of Israel’s true activists and pioneers in the medical-marijuana movement,” said Peleg.
The medical cannabis center in Israel is known as MECHKAR. which translates into english as “research,” although the initials in Hebrew are really an acronym for the Center for Distribution of Cannabis.
“My main role at MECHKAR is teaching licensed patients how to use cannabis, and suggesting strains and methods based on what we have in stock. I am proud to have learned all this from Valerie Corral. I still lean on her all the time for advice,” said Peleg.
MECHKAR is located in the city of Bat Yam, which is a Southern suburb of Tel Aviv, and it is regulated by Israel’s Ministry of Health. The majority of patients that use this service have been diagnosed with terminal illness and haven’t used cannabis before.
All of the patients at MECHKAR pay the same amount for the cannabis that they receive, regardless of the number of grams that they are allowed, but the price remains extremely low. The price is 360 shekels per month (around $100), and, because of complex legal circumstances, and the unpredictable challenges that come with gardening, most growers, Mimi fears, “are actually losing money on their operations.”
MECHKAR isn’t a cannabis buyers’ club, like we have here in California, and unlike WAMM, there is no community garden for the patients to work in. MECHKAR serves solely as a training and distribution center.
Nonetheless, both MECHKAR and WAMM provide affordable, quality medical cannabis to qualified patients at the cost of production, or lower, which can truly be a Godsend for many people in need. Facing a terminal illness is certainly difficult enough, without having to be concerned about how to afford treatment or pain relief--so these compassion-driven centers provide especially important services for low-income people.
Mimi Peleg was awarded a Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Proclamation by Neal Coonerty in 2009 before leaving for Israel, in gratitude for her community services, which were largely for WAMM.
To learn more about WAMM see: www.wamm.org
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