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Brooke Adams spent her senior year of high school in a hospital bed.
Adams used to suffer from chest pains that frequently landed her in the hospital. She also has 16 screws in her jaw from a previous injury that still causes pain.
When she went to college at the University of Montana, she had to take a year off because she was unable to function.
That all changed when she applied for and received a medical marijuana license from the state of Montana.
The licenses are the result of a 2004 law approved by voters that allow people with certain medical conditions to grow, use and carry marijuana.
Adams now works for the Montana Caregivers Network, a nonprofit organization established in April by Jason Christ, a Missoula programmer and Web site developer. On Friday, the network held a clinic in the Great Falls Civic Center, where patients could meet with a doctor and apply for a medical marijuana license.
Christ started the caregivers network after struggling to find a doctor who was willing to sign his application for a medical marijuana card.
Christ suffers from severe abdominal pain, for which doctors have been unable to find a cause. "I was in extremely bad pain," Christ said while smoking a pipe filled with marijuana on the steps of the Civic Center on Friday.
The pain was made worse by sitting, making it impossible for him to do his job. However, marijuana gives him relief.
"It allows me to think clearly and work hard," Christ said.
He finally received a medical marijuana license in January, which is when he decided to help others who had trouble getting the licenses.
"When I started this, I had no idea there would be this many people," he said. Since launching the network, interest has grown exponentially. Its hotline gets a call about every 2 minutes and Web site visits have increased 40 percent each month for the past four months, Christ said.
Additionally, the organization can see almost 200 patients during clinics such as the one held Friday, he said, noting that most clinics fill up well in advance.
Great Falls' clinics, which are held about once a month, are booked through December, said Allissa Zemke, Great Falls-area coordinator for the organization.
The Missoula-based Montana Caregivers Network holds clinics in all the major cities around the state. After wrapping up Friday's clinic in Great Falls, the group headed to Bozeman to hold clinics today and Sunday.
To obtain a medical marijuana license, a patient must have a debilitating medical condition such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, multiple sclerosis or chronic pain.
In addition to putting patients in touch with a doctor, the Montana Caregiver Network also helps patients find a caregiver who grows medical marijuana. A number of caregivers had booths set up at Friday's clinic, including people some selling marijuana-laced baked goods and candies.
Besides helping patients, the network is a resource for caregivers as well. "We teach caregivers how to grow pot and how to build a business growing pot," Christ said.
The organization holds occasional classes, dubbed "Weed University," where lawyers explain patients rights and other issues.
"We can get people their cards, but if they don't know how to use it lawfully, it doesn't do any good for them," Adams said.