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Compassion Club Profile: Birmingham Compassion

Posted By Contel Bradford On July 1, 2010 @ 9:49 am In News | 41 Comments

Talking Medical Marijuana with Birmingham Compassion


“A compassion club is essentially a local support organization for medical marijuana patients, their family members, their caregivers and other interested community members,” says Tony Philips, the head of Birmingham Compassion, a Michigan-based organization for medical marijuana patients. “They are often non-profit and focused on education and support. The law is just over one year old and while people are interested to see how cannabis can help their condition, they are perhaps apprehensive and unsure about where to get the right information. A club like Birmingham Compassion creates a safe environment for people to learn about the medical, legal and horticultural aspects of medical marijuana so they can make an informed decision about their treatment.”

Birmingham Compassion operates on three core values, according to Philips: community, education, and compassion. He says each component represents the goals and focus of the organization. 

“We like to think of community as a whole and not just the medical marijuana community, because patients are everyone and anyone,” said Philips. “There will be a time very soon in Michigan where everyone will personally know and love a medical marijuana patient. This will be important because, regardless if it’s their mother, their brother, their boss, their friend from high school or the nice woman from the supermarket, the unknown will finally be humanized. People are often afraid of things they don’t know about. So once it becomes personal and familiar, their perception of medical marijuana will most likely change.”

When it comes to medical marijuana in Michigan, the lack of knowledge has left some patients frightened and many others with questions regarding the law. This is why Philips believes education is such an integral part of Birmingham Compassion’s mission. 

“Education is power and none of this can happen without this component,” said Philips. “It is especially crucial with medical marijuana because knowledge can get people the medical help they need and keep them out of our legal system if possible. But more than gaining information and knowledge, our purpose is to share that information. It is only by spreading information that we can open minds and empower individuals to help themselves. To this end, there is a monthly meeting at the Baldwin Public Library in downtown Birmingham, Michigan that is completely open to everyone. We bring in speakers and experts on various topics, have different materials on hand, engage in many open discussions and really strive to provide a comfortable place for people to support each other.”

Hence the name, “compassion” is the main value that drives such organizations. It is the key component that maintains the human element and lets patients know that the community has their best interests at heart. As Philips explains, it is the attribute that enables Birmingham Compassion to thrive. 

“Ultimately, compassion is our way of reminding everyone that it is all about people,” said Philips. “It’s not about a mass group of people that can be generalized or stereotyped – it’s about individual patients and the people in their lives. We create a supportive environment so each unique individual can get the care, service and information that they need for their specific situation. Through this strong focus on people, we know that we are establishing strength in our community as a whole.”

There are many factors that attributed to Philips deciding to get involved in the medical marijuana movement. However, he cites that the opportunity to help patients and push a human rights issue forward were his primary reasons. 

“I’ve seen medical marijuana help patients right in my presence with conditions ranging from throat cancer and Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson’s disease and fibromyalgia,” he said. “I’ve also seen it help less life-threatening but still serious conditions such as chronic pain from extreme rheumatoid arthritis or gastro-intestinal conditions like Crohn’s disease. So on the personal patient level, as well as through activism, we have the chance to really affect positive change for a lot of people – and that is an opportunity I never thought I would have, at least not on this scale and not in this arena.”


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