With about 55 percent of more than 93,000 medical marijuana patients with a red card designating someone to grow for them, finding a caregiver clearly isn't that hard of a task in Colorado.
But how do people who aren't part of the cannabis community or simply don't have the right connections find someone to help grow their medicine?
To start, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has a confidential caregiver registry that matches patients with caregivers. Spokesman Mark Salley says a total of 31 caregivers are participating in the program right now and patients can request a list within a specific geographic area. You can sign up for the program as either a caregiver or an interested patient on the CDPHE website.
But beyond the CDPHE registry, there is no official way to find a caregiver. Grower collectives like the now defunct 303 Organics out of Boulder have seemingly disappeared. It makes sense, though: Given the nature of their business, growers often don't want to be sign up on lists that essentially declare that they grow cannabis.
We spoke with Tina Valenti, co-owner of In Harmony Wellness Services in Fort Collins -- a business formerly known as In Harmony Wellness dispensary and based in Windsor until dispensaries were banned in that town. In Harmony now operates as patient resource center, connecting patients with wellness services and doctors.
Valenti agreed that finding a caregiver is mostly about knowing the right people, noting that several groups of caregivers that once operated rather openly pre-1284 have since gone back underground. "I think the most direct way for a patient is probably with the list that CDPHE keeps," she says. "But I don't think a lot of caregivers are going to be comfortable being on that."
According to Valenti, In Harmony still works to informally connect patients with caregivers who she knows personally from her days as a buyer for her dispensary, during the period before regulations were passed that required MMCs to grow most of their own herb.
"Patients have come to me when they are in situations where they need a personal caregiver and we try and hand-match them," she says. "But we aren't keeping any lists or anything like that."
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The third option we found aside from talking with patient groups and going to the CDPHE is Craigslist. If you haven't checked before, dozens of people advertise caregiver services and meds every week.
Craigslist can be a crapshoot, of course -- and there are also plenty of ads from amateur growers for questionable (at best) meds. But good intentions are evident, too. Take an ad for a caregiver who will teach you how to grow on your own and become self-sufficient -- the ultimate goal for anyone looking to avoid paying someone else for their herb.
If you have any tips on how to help medical marijuana patients find caregivers, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.