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Posted on Sat, Jun 12, 2010 : 6 p.m.

Reed City doctor comes to Ann Arbor to help patients obtain medical marijuana

By Erica Hobbs

Dr. Edward Harwell didn’t always support medicinal marijuana.

The Reed City doctor, who has been coming to Ann Arbor weekly for the past month to assist patients in obtaining medical marijuana, said he was very anti-drug for most of his life.

But after attending a medical conference on medicinal marijuana use three years ago, Harwell said he has changed his mind.

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“They were talking about all the things it was good for so I started studying it,” he said. “It’s very successful at alleviating pain. It’s the only drug you can’t overdose on, it’s not toxic and it’s not addicting.”

Harwell, a former neurosurgeon, radiologist and general practitioner, decided to take up the cause after Michigan legalized medical marijuana use in 2008. He's been helping chronically ill patients get the drug for the past two months and is now making weekly trips to Ann Arbor’s Liberty Clinic, where he said he has assisted about 300 patients.

Harwell was at the clinic today, seeing patients with the help of two volunteers.

“I thought I’d be treating a bunch of hippies trying to get pot. In fact, it’s the reverse,” he said. “Most of them are very active citizens who wouldn’t be able to stand the pain without marijuana.”

Patients must book their appointments in advance through the Liberty Clinic, a non-profit organization that provides caregivers - those legally allowed to produce and sell marijuana - to patients eligible to receive the drug. Patients then meet with the doctor in a small room in the second story of 206 S. Main St. where, for $200 or $250 without medical records, they can sit down with Harwell. The doctor and patients discuss their symptoms, medical history and records to determine whether they are eligible for the card.

Though Harwell said most of the patients who see him are long-time marijuana users, the vast majority come with the proper medical documentation to prove their illnesses. To apply for a medical marijuana card, a physician must sign a document stating the patient suffers from one of 13 listed medical conditions such as cancer, HIV or Crohn’s disease. Other conditions include glaucoma, Hepatitis C or severe and chronic pain.

Pain is something Lansing resident Julie Schneider is familiar with. Schneider, a former California resident who has been using medicinal marijuana for the past three years, drove in to help Halwell check-in patients and organize paperwork.

Though she declined to disclose her own medical condition, she said she's seen significant results in how medical marijuana has helped with her pain, as well as its benefits for others. She said she became an advocate of helping others attain medical marijuana after seeing its effects on a friend suffering from multiple sclerosis.

“Watching the amazing change with her when she medicates, it’s like night and day," she said. “We’re just scratching the surface of what the compounds in this plant are capable of.”

Harwell said even though he generally doesn't do a complete physical examination, his role is necessary. He said many doctors don’t want to certify patients for medical marijuana use because the law is still a little unclear.

“I want to (do it),” he said. “I like patients, and I believe in it.”

Erica Hobbs is a reporter for Reach her at 734 623-2537 or via e-mail at



Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 3:15 p.m.

Thank God for Dr. Harwell. He is courageous. He is indeed an angel of mercy. Despite the x-rays and cat scans showing just how messed up my back is, no doctor would take me seriously, dismissing me as a "stoner". Dr. Harwell listened and completed a physician's certification. Marijuana is a natural herb, a gift from God. God doesn't make mistakes he placed this plant on this earth for a reason. Man made pharmaceuticals, so called "pain killers" are addictive and destructive. The years of government propaganda are finally being challenged. President Nixon commissioned a study to prove how harmful Marijuana is, and when the results came back showing it not to be harmful or physically addictive, he tossed the report in the trash. I'm 35, when I was young it was Reagan's just say no campaign that scared me. I was offered it in High School and about freaked out, doing the right thing and saying "No". It wasn't until my 20's that I tried it for the first time and realized what baloney the propaganda was. I wasn't compelled to rob a liquor store to support a habit, or move on to hard drugs. I'm a law-abiding citizen. In fact, I was in law enforcement until I was disabled. I'm definitely not a "stoner". Thanks to the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Michigan and to Dr. Harwell for allowing me to ease my pain without jeopardizing my health or getting a criminal record.

David Briegel

Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 3:22 p.m.

Next will come harassment and selective enforcement. The American way of injustice. The politicians need to lead and legalize. Quit making the citizens demands become convoluted into nonsensical policies and half-hearted and ineffective legislation! There will be harm done to many innocents be they patients or victims of the selective harassment.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 1:27 p.m.

Maybe the natural coca leaf will be next, it helped me greatly in S America, didn't get sick once! Keyword here is NATURAL!

Atticus F.

Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 12:08 p.m.

To all of the people who are so sure that medical marijuana doesn't help ease suffering, how many years did you spend in medical school?

Marshall Applewhite

Sun, Jun 13, 2010 : 3:02 p.m.

If marijuana is such a non-addictive drug, why was it so much harder to quit than cigarettes for me?

Me Next

Sun, Jun 13, 2010 : 1:45 p.m.

MJ does NOT HAVE Addictive chemicals in the Natural HERB. Contact the US GOV & get pamphlets like I did decades ago - under orders of my Sunday School Teacher. Show me in the US Constitution where personal decisions are given to collective. Where you have the right to beer (that I can't stand) but I couldn't have MJ (I don't but I assert the Right to if I so choose by Constitutional Law & with that violated- Natural Law), a different product to get the same feeling you get from beer. I feel it's criminal to make "Medical Need" people register as exempted offenders to an Unconstitutional Law, just because another citizen with Rights might buy MJ instead of Beer. I feel it's criminal to Favor Foreign Growers while our farms are regulated out of business from cost to plant peas, corn, tomatoes,... I've seen alot of substance abuse in my time on earth & I tell you (believe it or not - doesn't matter to me because I govern same as you) "addictive personality" does not discriminate by addiction - just the chosen substance to abuse. Just respect the rights of others as you would have them respect yours. That's the core of Our 'more perfect union". Kennedy smoked pot in the Oval Office. He suffered from terrible back pain. He also drank more than "average citizen" & it's alleged he did harder chemicals. All drugs were were made illegal by man & yet people exercise Natural Rights. We in America can judge by real science, reason, & legalize a product & snatch the money right out of the hands of foreigners (&citizens) that will literally Murder us in cold blood for their payday. Bottom Line: Commerce Clause only grants Taxing Power for products & services that come into America or goes out, or crosses State Sovereign Lines. It is a personal decision to buy services or products & the Free Market adjusts to accommodate Demand. I could say something about "psychoactive" but I'll just go.


Sun, Jun 13, 2010 : 11:35 a.m.

Ok I have a question for posters.First I thimk MJ should be legal.But if people need MJ for medicial reasons why don't they just go get some? its not like its hard to get


Sun, Jun 13, 2010 : 9:50 a.m.

I don't think it's fair that only sick people get marijuana. If you take care of yourself you should also be able to get it. It's only fair!

Tom Joad

Sun, Jun 13, 2010 : 7:32 a.m.

medical marijuana is de facto legalized drug dealing. Some medical marijuana dispensaries (affectionately known as marijuana clubs) in California make $50,000 a day CA$H and up, every day. The IRS cracked down a few egregious club owners who were laundering huge piles of cash in luxury homes and $200,000 sports cars. THC is a potent pesticide selected through the plant's evolution. To say marijuana is not addictive is ludicrous and a lie.


Sat, Jun 12, 2010 : 7:34 p.m.

There are different types of addictions. Physical and psychological. Unlike like tobacco or caffeine, marijuana is not physically addicting. So if you stop smoking marijuana, there are no ill effects on your body. If you are addicted to something like caffeine your body will actually suffer physical symptoms upon withdrawal. Marijuana, however, can be psychological addicting. Yet, so can a lot of other things. For instance, ice cream or one's favorite television show.


Sat, Jun 12, 2010 : 6:19 p.m.

Wings 19 There is a difference between addiction and obsession, the point being that marijuana is a natural herb very unlike the opiates coming from the pharmaceutical organizations. Opiates will not treat nerve pain (straight from the doctor's mouth) All illegal drugs make you feel better??? That's a stretch. Not true for me as well as alot of legal drugs that would not make me feel better and are quite addictive. Guess you would have to define addiction a little better for me to understand your statement. Beer, yes that can be addictive as in alcoholics.

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Jun 12, 2010 : 5:20 p.m.

My bunions are aching, either I need a prescription or its going to rain.


Sat, Jun 12, 2010 : 5:19 p.m.

Huh, that's funny. When I drink enough beer my pain lessens too. And to say Marijuana is not addictive is ridiculous. ANYTHING that is psychoactive can be addictive. And I have the unfortunate circumstance of seeing former friends who are clearly addicted to marijuana. All illegal drugs make you feel better. If your patients are feeling pain why not give them morphine? Or Cocaine? That will certainly make them feel better, for a while.