After a dozen years of serving patients in Portland, the original Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse clinic, better known as MAMA, is closing its doors. The clinic, located at 5217 SE 28th Avenue, has been a fixture in Portland since 2005 serving tens of thousands of medical marijuana patients over the years. MAMA will continue to operate out of their office in The Dalles where they will have clinics about 4 times a month. Compassion Center in Eugene, the states only other non-profit clinic, will be closing its doors at the end of January.
“We were losing money,” Sandee Burbank, the clinic founder, told Oregon Cannabis Connection (OCC). “Some months we would barely break even.”
Burbank has been fighting for cannabis and patient rights for years. In fact MAMA was founded in 1981, and received non-profit status in 1982. Once Oregon passed medical marijuana in 1998, Burbank became even more involved serving patients. She eventually founded her own clinic, MAMA, after seeing the conditions at most other clinics in the state, including one where she had worked.
“On the first day, I walked in there and I was shocked at how the people were being treated. They were expected to wait for hours, sit on the floor or stand…I couldn’t even believe it and the second day I came back and we changed all that,” said Burbank. “Eventually we saw the need for harm reduction with cannabis, so we decided to open our own clinic, and we found a wonderful place in Portland – the place we are now leaving after twelve plus years.”
“We helped people understand even just basic harm reduction – what’s the difference when you smoke something, when you eat something, and all those kinds of things people needed to know,” she explained further. “We were also concerned about harm reduction in regard to the law because back then when you grew a plant just one inch too tall you went from being a protected patient to being a class A felon.”
Many changes have occurred in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) and Burbank has always advocated for patients. She fought the massive fee increases in 2011 with fervor, contacting as may as 6,000 people three separate times to stand up against the increase. There were over 84,000 people registered with the OMMP at that point as patients, caregivers, or growers. IN the emails she asked that they or friends contact the Oregon legislature and let them know that they should not finance other health programs on the backs of patients. Unfortunately there was little to no response from patients, which disheartened Burbank.
“I thought once we got all these people signed up and they become legal they won’t be afraid to speak out,” she explained to OCC. “I believe 78 of the 84,000 people [registered with the OMMP] bothered.”
Their physical Bend office closed in November 2015, but they continued to have clinics thanks to Bloomwell, a local dispensary, and it’s owner Jeremy Kwitt. He provided a space available for MAMA to operate a couple of clinics each month. That all ended a couple of months ago when their doctor became unavailable, and they don’t plan to continue the clinics due to costs and manpower.
“We closed that office down about two months ago because the doctor didn’t want to make the drive again,” Burbank explained. “So, unfortunately the patients are going to have to make the drive [to The Dalles], but I think we have put in our time.”
If you are interested in their clinics, or were a patient in Portland and have questions, you can contact MAMA at their clinic in The Dalles at 317 East 9th Street or in their Portland office until noon on January 27th (open Tuesday thru Friday from 9am to 4pm). Call them at 503-233-4202. If you were a patient in Portland, you can call or email them at [email protected]. They are online at www.mamas.org.
Lets hope they continue for years serving medical marijuana patients in Oregon. We need all the patient advocates we can get, and none are better than Sandee Burbank.