The Nonprofit Marijuana Ventures of Montel Williams

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August 16, 2011; Source: Washington Post | One positive side effect of the medical use of marijuana may be that it gets its prominent users’ nonprofit juices flowing. Talk-show host Montel Williams is part of a nonprofit group, the Abatin Wellness Center, that has just filed for a license to operate a marijuana dispensary and cultivation facility in the District of Columbia. The Washington Post reports that earlier this year, Abatin opened a facility in Sacramento, California, with Williams as its “public face.”

Williams’ interest in medical marijuana is serious: he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Although in recent years Williams has recorded TV pitches for the Living Well Healthmaster blender, online payday lender Money Mutual, and security firm LifeLock, he is not “a spokesman-for-hire,” according to Jonathan Franks, the publicist for both Williams and Abatin. Many people also associate Williams with the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a single point of access to hundreds of public and private patient assistance programs.

Williams does have a nonprofit track record. After his diagnosis, he created the Montel Williams MS Foundation which, according to its website, has handed out $1.5 million in grants to groups studying MS. The website uses bold type to assure donors: “Currently, 100% of the public’s donations go directly to funding research to find a cure for MS. We are committed to keeping administrative costs as low as possible to remain true to this mission.” However, charities’ claims of low administrative costs are often problematic, and this is no exception. The Foundation’s 2009 Form 990, the latest available at Foundation Directory Online, shows $237,517 in contributions and $261,994 in total revenue, but $326,014 in total expenses, composed of $165,201 in salaries, $39,673 in professional fees, $47,947 in occupancy costs, $19,922 in printing and postage, $53,271 in other expenses, and $0 in grants. (It should be noted that elsewhere in the 990, the Foundation identifies program expenditures of $55,852 to promote awareness of MS, $48,261 for its role as an “informal resource center to MS patients and their families” and $707 in “research grants and financial assistance to selected medical organizations to further medical research on causes and treatment of multiple sclerosis.”)

Formerly known as the Capital Wellness Cooperative, Abatin seems to operate on a very low-profile, exclusive basis, at least at its Sacramento facility. According to NUG Magazine, “They do not have a listed or readily available telephone number. They are not on, nor do they have a website. No advertising, no loud nug displays, not even a sign outside to indicate that it is a medical marijuana cooperative.” In June, a local Sacramento blog called the Sacratomatoville Post ran an item about Abatin entitled “Montel Williams Medical Cannabis Store to Be the Nieman Marcus of Marijuana?”

It would appear that soon, D.C. residents will be able to answer that question for themselves. Nonprofit, upscale, and celebrity-oriented, Abatin and Williams are blazing a distinctive path in the brave new world of medical marijuana dispensaries.—Rick Cohen

  • ConservativeChristia

    Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member

  • Jillian Galloway

    Medical marijuana won’t get the drug dealers off the streets or end the brutal Mexican drug cartel murders!

    The *only* thing that can do that is to allow our supermarkets to legally sell marijuana to adults at prices too low for the dealers and cartels to match.

    We have to face facts. Either we as a country have the ability to eliminate marijuana use or we as a country have to provide safe and legal supply to the stuff through distributors we can trust – and who better to do this than our supermarkets who we already trust with alcohol and tobacco? Our supermarkets have proven that they’re reputable companies, they know how to card their customers, and they have the ability and the will to price these products at a level too low for illegal suppliers to match. Supermarkets are the ideal way to drive drug dealers off our streets and bankrupt the murderous and sadistic cartels. The status quo of massive, unrelenting demand combined with zero legal supply is simply NOT an option!

    We may not ever wish to purchase beer, wine or marijuana ourselves but we should *always* insist on them being legal for supermarkets to sell to adults.

  • Q!

    Replying yo Jillian, I’m going to have to disagree, with at least a bit of that.

    I do agree than rather magically destroy cartels and other insidious vendors, it will only undercut them, but that’s a bit step. It could very well slow violence related to Marijuana. However, turning over to the supermarkets, in my opinion is a bad idea. The people have the top of those chains have enough money (read: corruption) and don’t need more. The money should go to the states, and the people of them. I’m all for legalizing, but profits are a powerful tool, and we have to remember, people want and use that tool every day. Fair regulation for the individual would be nice, but I don’t honestly see it happening.

    But who knows what’ll happen in a couple of years?

  • Ann Stoker

    As usual those who want marijuana to be sold ‘legally’ omit to say to whom. If you say the substance would be similar to alcohol and would not be sold to minors then the existing dealers would simply sell to those under the age of l8 years. Research shows that those who use marijuana under the age of 16 are statistically more likely to become problem drug users and are also more likely to become cocaine users. Ergo making marijuana legally available to those aged l8 and above will actually make the problems much worse.
    The real answer is to change the culture surrounding drug use so that users are seen as losers not as ‘cool’. Drug prevention with parental involvement reduced the use of drugs by over 60% in the early l990s – and could do so again
    if the media stopped glamourising drug use and adolescents were told that far from being a ‘benign medicine’ marijuana is implicated in the onset of schizophrenia and other mental health problems.
    ‘ medical marijuana’ should only be an extract of the plant, pharmaceutically prepared and only available from licensed doctors – and only in a pill format. That way the ridiculous laws allowing anyone with a headache to grow marijuana plants for their own use could be struck off the statute books but genuinely sick patients could be prescribed pills which might help them.
    If America wants to really get to grips with the marijuana problem then look at
    Sweden – that country has the lowest use of illegal drugs in Europe; they also have good treatment and rehab programmes. Compare educational attainments with other countries and you will find they are superior The vast majority of Swedish adolescents get their highs naturally not from drugs.

  • Peg Meerkatz

    I grew up in the days where in school we were not even educated about drugs or drug use because it might give us “[i][b]ideas[/b][/i]”. Parents were given drug info & [i][b]”what to look for[/b][/i]” in sealed envelopes clearly marked[b] “not to opened by anyone under 18”. [/b]

    For those of us suffering from chronic debilitating medical conditions like Multiple Sclerosis[i][b] who is to say that marijuana cannot help us[/b][/i]? People went crazy stinging themselves with bees because someone decided that bee stings would[i][b] “cure”[/b][/i] Multiple Sclerosis; these days we have drugs like “Tysabri” which has already caused the death of hundreds of MS patients & others are running off to have surgery believing that clogged arteries in the neck are the “[i][b]cure[/b][/i]” for MS. :-*

    I don’t think that anyone could convince me that a[i][b] “weed”, [/b] [/i] “[i][b]a plant”[/b][/i] like marijuana is more dangerous than an insect sting[i][b] (where was that insect before it stung you?), [/b] [/i] more dangerous than a drug that so-called experts know is killing people but since it only kills certain people they do not take it off the market & is smoking a[i][b] “weed”[/b][/i] – a[i][b] “plant”[/b][/i] more dangerous than undergoing surgery? 😉

    I say try the path of least harm first & for me I see that as medicinal marijuana.[b] YES I AM A STRONG SUPPORTER but NO I AM NOT A USER but ONLY BECAUSE I FEAR THE LEGAL IMPLICATIONS IF I WERE CAUGHT BUYING IT or GROWING IT. [/b] 😥

    The day that medicinal marijuana is made legal in New York (I do not say “[i][b]if[/b][/i]” because I believe that day is coming really soon)[b] I WILL BE THE FIRST IN LINE FOR A MEDICINAL MARIJUANA CARD[/b] 😆 !

  • Sam

    Statistics may show that adolecents who try marijuana are more likely to move on to hard drugs, but people have to step back and factor in more information before they condemn marijuana as an evil gateway drug. The personality types of teens who would try weed in the first place are personalities that might try hard drugs anyways. Most of the people I know who smoke weed wouldn’t even think about doing drugs like cocaine or heroin. Marijuana may not have positive effects on your health but it’s effects are on par with tobacco and alcohol. It may be a destructive force that “ruins” certain people’s lives, but so is junk food and more so because junk food can activley kill you. Right now the fact that pot is illegal is gasoline for drug cartels destructive flames. It makes no sense to keep it illegal with all of the present arguments. The “It will be more easily available to kids if it’s legal” is an invalid argument because it already is easily available to kids. If anything it’ll become less available because drug dealers will stop selling weed because it wouldn’t be as profitable anymore. I may be biased towards marijuana because I’ve seen that it’s effects aren’t as bad as all of the hype, but I still think my points are valid.