Mike Smith is the founder of The Healing Center Medical Clinic. He has multiple locations nationwide, and their address in Alaska is 7801 Schoon Street in Anchorage. Mike’s a very busy guy, but I finally caught up with him and he was nice enough to sit down for an interview with me earlier this week. This was a free-spirited chance for him to speak his mind about a lot of the marijuana issues going on in the United States right now, from minimum mandatory sentencing to the way he feels about the Trump Administration.
ACI: So, how long ago did you start the clinic?
Mike: About 10 years ago. I’ve been in Alaska doing doctors’ clinics for about six years now. I remember when I first got to Alaska there were about 300 people on the registry, and no doctors would do this. It was because there was this DEA agent who’d went around a couple of years before I got there and told the doctors that if they wrote a medical marijuana recommendation that he was going to come in and charge them with a federal crime.
ACI: Wow, that’s crazy. And your locations are in Alaska, Colorado, Florida and Ohio. Which one did you start up first?
Mike: I actually started in Montana first, but I don’t operate there anymore. We’re just opening in Florida, their office is almost done. In Ohio we haven’t opened up yet because the medical marijuana program is being delayed by the medical board. I have a doctor there ready to go, just waiting on the board. I’m flying into Tampa this Friday, going out to meet with the new office owner and everything.
ACI: Speaking of flying, you’re a medical marijuana user. Have you ever had any trouble at the airport with marijuana? Some business owners have flown with it in Alaska in past year, but they admitted that they were really scared to do so at first.
Mike: Well, there are two different nuances, the interstate commerce clause, then there’s the federal commerce clause. Now, I myself as a medical marijuana patient can legally get on the plane and fly from Colorado to Alaska with my marijuana. I’ve done it like 30 times. More than that probably. I’ve had my bag searched by TSA, and I personally put my medical marijuana in a bag with my medical marijuana card with a note that says ‘please do not molest (because you know law loves that word molest) this is my medical marijuana. Please give me a call’, and I leave my phone number. So I’m not there trying to hide anything whatsoever. And, because there’s no commerce involved, no sales, then the feds have nothing to do with it. Those people took cannabis put it on a plane went over federal airspace for commerce, so that’s what made it a violation of federal law with them, the cannabis business owners.
ACI: What if that business owner is a medical marijuana patient themselves. I mean, would they be able to fly with their marijuana over the federal airspace then?
Mike: Well, then it would likely be over the weight limit. There could be like ten pounds in that suitcase.
ACI: I hear you. So, what’s a normal day like for you?
Mike: Well, I work in corporate. We teach people how to operate these clinics and we sell license agreements.
ACI: I just did an article on how many people have decided to retire in places like Alaska over the past few years because of medical marijuana. In your experience, what’s the percentage of older patients to younger ones?
Mike: The vast majority of our patients are over 50. Medical marijuana is nothing new there. What’s new in Alaska is recreational marijuana, and that seems to be going bye-bye in this country, because some (expletive) racist piece of (expletive) named Donald Trump was elected president, then he appointed another (expletive) racist piece of (expletive) as his attorney general, and his name is Jeff Sessions. They already have quiet behind-the-scenes meetings going on about how they’re going to shut this all down. It could be one of two ways. They could either send a letter, which would be nice, telling the States ‘Hey, we’re going to start enforcing federal law, so we’ll give the stores, you know, 30-60 days to wrap it up…’ Or, they’re going to do what I think they’re going to do, which is the just kick in the door, throw people on the ground, arrest people, seize products, and make a big show for the media and everything. They’ll probably try to show some film shots of all the money, saying things on camera like ‘This is all the illegal money’…yeah. That’s probably what they’ll do. This Administration sucks.
ACI: Let’s talk about medical marijuana cards and guns. Lots of people want a gun, but they feel they won’t be able to get one if they want to simultaneously have a card for medical cannabis. Is that true?
Mike: That is true. There was a girl in Nevada in the past couple of years that went to get a medical marijuana card. She went into a friend’s gun shop to buy a gun, and that guy knew that she had a card. On the background check, I think it’s question number 11, it asks you do you use marijuana. And, if you check yes, you’ve just outted yourself to the federal computer. If you check no, now you’re perjuring yourself and lying on the document, if you’re a medical marijuana card holder. Now, those computers can’t find each other. So, in the long run, it’s kind of like the military don’t-ask-don’t-tell still. If you don’t tell on yourself, the computer is not going to know. She left it blank, and you can’t leave any question blank on there if you want to get a gun. Every court above the 9th Circuit Court rejected her argument that she shouldn’t have to answer that question because she’s a medical marijuana card holder. No, I’m sorry honey. You’re trying to buy a gun which is a federally regulated thing.
ACI: Have any of your patients with medical marijuana cards ever been in any major trouble with the law?
Mike: Sure, we’ve had patients that had interactions with law enforcement. For example, there was one law enforcement officer up in Nome who was called to an MS patients’ house and when he got there he cut down the extra plants and the allotted plants by state law. I’m like “Dude, let’s go I have an attorney let’s go to court let’s go!” But he didn’t want to, probably because it was originally a domestic violence call.
ACI: Oh, so it was kind of like if you’d gotten pulled over by the police in your car for not wearing a seatbelt then they charge you with something else while they have you on the side of the road. They came out to the house for domestic violence and took that opportunity to chop down all his weed.
Mike: Right. See, we haven’t had one patient charged for a crime in Alaska for having a higher plant count, and we hope it doesn’t happen, because Alaska is one of the only states that doesn’t have court precedent right now for higher plant count. Now, I’ve already got patients that have set court precedent up there for probation. A lot of people don’t realize that you can have a medical marijuana card on probation.
Mike: Sure you can. But some of the probation officers don’t even realize it.
ACI: Several weeks ago, a group of governors from four different states, including the governor of Alaska, got together and wrote the Trump Administration a letter asking them not to do things like that. One of the things they pointed out was a piece of paperwork from a few years ago called the Cole Memo.
Mike: Yeah, I’m fully aware this. I’ve been in business for over a decade. I’ve owned dispensaries in places like Colorado and Montana, at one point I was the largest dispensary owner there. I’ve been threatened by the federal government for indictment, but I’m not low-hanging fruit so they never came after me. They go after people who break other laws. As far as the Cole memorandum, it means nothing. It’s a memo. It’s an interoffice memo. David Cole does not even work at the Justice Department anymore. So those four senators are stupider than a box of rocks.
Mike: No, seriously. All the people in the department who thought that the memorandum was cool, they’re all gone. It’s just like any office memo that says something like ‘Don’t forget to clean out the coffee pot when you finish using it’. It’s just a memo. That’s what people don’t understand. It especially means nothing now since mandatory minimum sentencing was just reinstated by Jeff sessions a couple of weeks ago. That’s what the memorandum was about. They weren’t enforcing the mandatory minimums anymore, they had polled all of that. So, they did a memo saying hey, if they’re within the state law and they’re doing everything they’re supposed to, we’re not going to waste our federal funds to go after them. But, now that the mandatory sentencing is back, if you grow 100 plants, it doesn’t matter if they are hemp, Charlotte’s Web, or Gorilla Glue, you get five years no matter what. To me, it’s like were back in the Nancy Reagan time where it was Just Say No to marijuana as drug (it’s a dangerous drug, etc…) when you got people around like Jeff Sessions who says things like “good people don’t use marijuana”.
ACI: It’s a shame. Those four governors also mentioned the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network FinCEN in the letter, giving them praise for continuously maintaining control over legal marijuana in each respective state.
Mike: Well, I bank with Wells Fargo, but our business is federally legal. We do not touch the plants. We just push paper. So that’s a big nuance there. You touch the plant, the feds can come after you. I hate to say it, but all these politicians are slippery lying bastards. In the long run, the only reason there is recreational marijuana is because of the sick and dying. They rode the backs of the sick and dying to the almighty tax dollar is what they did, and it fucking pisses me off.
Hear more from the founder of The Healing Center Medical Clinic Mike Smith on the second half of this interview. Read on at The Healing Center Medical Clinic website.