Having endured a broken back and countless debilitating injuries during a 17-year career in the construction industry, Medford resident Mike Schanno can relate all too well with patients who come to him seeking help obtaining the medical marijuana that eases unbearable pain and helps them "get back to living their lives."
"I've actually helped people come off of heroin, and it's a good feeling," he said.
Two years after opening The Green Compass, a strip-mall-sized space off Medford's McAndrews Road, Schanno has opened what he said could be the region's first medical marijuana wellness center in Gold Hill.
Offering access to medical marijuana for patients with a state-issued medical marijuana card, Schanno's new space also will offer resources for new cardholders seeking guidance, classes on growing marijuana, and even shiatsu massage — with and without cannabis-infused oils.
"It's scary for people who just got their card and they're not sure what to do next. We're really all about helping people figure out the best way to get their medicine — in whatever usable form they need it in," Schanno said.
Such services long have been in demand, Schanno said, but were limited by the smaller size of his Medford location.
While his clientele is small, mostly individuals older than 40, Schanno acknowledges the stigma that comes with medical marijuana — a perception he hopes to erase with education and running a successful business.
"We're all about education, so we don't mind people coming in with questions about the benefits of getting their cards," he said.
Schanno spent nearly three months readying his new location with paint and other improvements.
"Of course, you get the people who walk by, raise an eyebrow, and wonder what we're doing here," he said.
"But you take the time to talk to people, and they usually understand that we're really helping people, which is pretty cool."
Schanno said teaching patients how to grow medicine for themselves helps protect them from losing needed medicine and allows them to control quality.
"A lot of people want, and need to, learn to grow their own medicine so they have safe access to what they need to have. We're seeing a lot of raids where the patients are the ones who get stuck," he said.
"Law enforcement isn't as concerned with patients just growing for themselves as they are the larger grow sites. They (the patients) know they're going to get their medicine if they're growing it on their own."
While expressing concern with the "existing drug culture" in Gold Hill, Gold Hill Mayor Jan Fish acknowledged she had fielded few concerns about the new facility since Schanno began working on the space in March.
"I would have obviously preferred something like a family nurse practitioner — it was a beauty salon at one point — but we'll just work with what we have and hope for the best," Fish said.
While council members have discussed zoning that would restrict areas of town in which medical marijuana could be grown, Fish was said she was unsure whether zoning changes would impact The Compass.
Medford resident Stephanie Clark, who identified Schanno as her longtime grower, said his desire to help patients is obvious.
Clark, who is legally blind and suffers chronic pain from a herniated disc and migraines, said she had used everything from body lotion and cookies to cooking oils at Schanno's facility.
"The good thing about what he does is the types of products you can get. I've seen like 10 to 12 different kinds of products there, and they're all for different things, like trouble sleeping or nausea or lost appetite. Not everything is just for pain or getting high," she said.
While Schanno, who is a registered grower, cannot be paid for providing medical marijuana, state guidelines allow him to be reimbursed for expenses, such as supplies and utilities, incurred in the production of medical marijuana.
In addition, Schanno's Medford and Gold Hill locations offer retail sales of smoking accessories, jewelry and other noncannabis products to cover business operations.
Usable marijuana, plants and seeds are the property of patients who are registered with specific growers, but excess supplies can be transferred to another registered cardholder as long as the transferred amount is within the legal limits. For such services, Schanno can accept donations to cover expenses.
Clark said the medical benefits of the services are very real.
"I'm really excited about them opening up the wellness center and doing medicated massages. Massages have helped a lot with my pain, so being able to get one with medicated oils would be really, really great."
Clark said Schanno's facilities are crucial for patients who are unsure about getting started with medical marijuana use after being issued a medical marijuana card.
"I think there are a lot of people who wouldn't know what to do or who to go to without Mike, and he just genuinely wants to help people however he can," Clark said.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com.