Medical Marijuana Doctor Tells All: Q&A Part 1

May 03, 2007

Bonnie King, Salem-News (OR)

Legal or illegal, countless numbers of Americans use marijuana, and they have for a long time. There is virtually no one who does not at least know someone who smokes it. But few people know or understand the potential consequences marijuana can have when it comes to their health, and for that reason, and because many people wonder if medical marijuana might help their ailments, we present the first question and answer segment with Dr. Phillip Leveque, Oregon's top expert on medical marijuana.

The weed that the federal government still considers illegal, regardless of the passage of state medical marijuana laws all over the country, has been the subject of countless false statements. Long before this country was founded, people used marijuana for medicinal purposes. Dr. Leveque's intention is to bring clarity to the subject as it affects us today.

Because of previous laws and false information, the related healthcare aspects of this largely illegal, yet widely used substance, have gone almost totally unaddressed by the nation's medical community.

In Oregon, however, and in many other states, people now use the product from the Cannabis plant medicinally AND legally. Still, most doctors are uncomfortable with the subject, and some won't touch it with a ten foot pole. Dr. Leveque has treated upwards of 4,000 patients, and signed more medical marijuana permit applications in Oregon than any other doctor. Dr. Leveque is totally unique as he is not a regular MD, but an Osteopath. He is also a Toxicologist and he has testified in court as an expert more than 400 times throughout his career.

He also taught for the University of London, among several others, and he trained the first medical doctors ever in Tanzania and other parts of Africa.

Yet all his wisdom and all the years of serving people, which began when he was a young soldier in Europe fighting the Nazis during World War Two, were crossed out in in 1986, when the Board of Medical Examiners suspended him for ten years for "taking care of too many chronic pain patients," he says they made claims that were largely unsupported. Leveque is a doctor whose practice did attract many chronic pain patients; he was especially qualified as a toxicologist to help them more than some doctors could - or would. In the height of his practice after returning to Oregon, he suddenly had to stop practicing medicine.

But the board's decision did not prevent Dr. Phillip Leveque from helping alleviate his patients' pain. Since medical marijuana was given the nod by voters in Oregon, he has signed more than 4,000 patient applications. While he clearly advocates the medical use of marijuana, Leveque is also clear about the adverse side of marijuana use as well, and he will tell you that marijuana only works with specific ailments.

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR DR. LEVEQUE? Email: newsroom@salem-news.com
or simply write a comment at the bottom of the page. You do not have to use your real name if you are not comfortable doing so. We will do our best to have your questions addressed in upcoming segments.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Salem-News.com does not advocate any illegal activity. This special segment is geared completely toward exploring the legal use of marijuana as a medical treatment. Dr. Phillip Leveque's opinions and advice are intended only as such, and his statements are strictly his own, and do not represent the opinions or policies of Salem-News.com.

This is the full transcript from the video. You will see the video screen when you scroll to the bottom of the page.

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Bonnie: We're here with Dr. Leveque, the leading expert on medical marijuana in the state of Oregon. He's going to be answering questions for our regular readers here on Salem-News.com. Dr. Leveque we would like to just start right off with a question about the propaganda from the last several years. Now, why does marijuana have the reputation that it has?

Dr. Leveque: Well, OK, first of all the pharmaceutical industry does not want a person to grow their own marijuana so if you grow your own it must be bad. The petroleum industry doesn't want you to grow your own hemp seed oil, because hemp seed oil was the first fuel for the diesel engine. The timber industry doesn't want you to raise hemp because they can make fiber board out of it and a whole bunch of stuff like that. The pharmaceutical industry doesn't want you to grow your own medicine in the backyard, which is probably better than that you can get as a prescription. The alcohol industry doesn't want you to use marijuana, they'd rather you use alcohol and get psoriases of the liver or destroy your pancreas. And even doctors are against a person growing their own medicine and using it in a rational fashion. They would rather prescribe morphine, Oxycontan or some of the anti-depressants that are causing people to commit suicide nowadays. So it's very interesting to note that Cannabis as a medicine has never killed anybody, never in 4,000 years of use.

Bonnie: Now some readers have asked too about, what does this mean when it comes to carcinogens? We know most people will smoke it, so does this mean most people are not having any side effects from smoking?

Dr. Leveque: When cannabis or marijuana is burned, it does create some carcinogens, true. Carcinogens produced by tobacco kill maybe 100,000 people a year? So nicotine in tobacco is the active substance but nicotine does not cause cancer, it's the burning of the plant material, same way for marijuana or cannabis. But we recommend that people use a vaporizer, which vaporizes the medical constituents of marijuana but does not burn the marijuana when you smoke it.

Bonnie: Now doctor we know there are a lot of different ways for people to... they can inhale it, they can ingest it, what are the doses that are recommended for using cannabis?

Dr. Leveque: There is no dose, no specific dose, for Cannabis Marijuana for this reason; that there are probably 200 various sub-species of marijuana plant and each one has different constituents and some of them might be good for pain, some of them might be good for spasms, etc. And a person has to try on a trial and error basis to find out which one works the best for whatever their is. Now in saying that it is interesting to remember that in California, over 200,000 people have permits to use Cannabis, and certainly they are using different kinds of it. visited a Cannabis dispensary a year ago and they had 3 different varieties of Cannabis; one variety was $300 an ounce, one was $400 an ounce and one was $600 an ounce, and so obviously there is some difference. And the person who uses marijuana can very easily tell the difference between $300 an ounce and $600 an ounce, and the thing of it is that some marijuana contains up to 20% of the medical ingredients and the stuff that was 15-20 years ago was maybe 5% at the most. So in other words, you have to, if you're getting a new batch, of marijuana/cannabis, you have to be very careful about how much you inhale, or whatever way you take it. And in addition to that particular thing, Marinol is pure synthetic THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol and one of the main adverse side effects of ten milligrams of THC/Marinol, is panic attacks and Marinol is a prescription item! So it's really strange and the thing of it is that, THC is not the only active substance in marijuana, there are CBD and (CBN) but they all, and there are other substances that modulate the effect of the so-called Cannabinoids

Bonnie: You just mentioned Marinol and a lot of people have brought that up as well; that there are ways for people to do this through their doctor without having to become a medical marijuana patient. So what is Marinol?

Dr. Leveque: Marinol is pure, synthetic Tetrahydrocannabinol which was for many years considered to be the main ingredient or the only ingredient or whatever the right word is, in medicine produced by the Cannabis or marijuana plant. But there are several other related structures which modulate the effect of the THC. And Marinol, a person who, a new patient I should say, who gets a prescription for ten milligrams of Marinol; it is likely that he's going to have a panic attack from it, and the worst thing of it is if you eat it, swallow it, it sticks with you for four hours. So the people, they don't make that mistake twice. Once is plenty

Bonnie: So do people use Marinol for the same reasons that they use medical marijuana?

Dr. Leveque: It's primarily used for nausea and vomiting of chemotherapy and HIV/AIDS. But at the same time patients will, out of fear, will not use marijuana because they could be arrested. So they will say to their doctor, 'will you please give me some Marinol?' But there are very few people who are using it and I think one of the worst features is that a Marinol pill costs about $15 and you can buy a marijuana cigarette for a lot less than that.

Bonnie: I know there are a lot reasons that people become medical marijuana patients and that number of patients is growing every day, every month in the state of Oregon. What are the main reasons that people use medical marijuana and what is legal for them as patients, as they become patients?

Dr. Leveque: In order to get a medical marijuana permit, and that's what it is; a permit, to grow, carry and use marijuana, they have to have a medical report which states that they either have glaucoma, cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer's Rage, chronic pain, chronic nausea, spasms, epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. Most patients have a combination of chronic pain and muscle spasms, and it is usually bad backs. And a combination of pain and muscle spasms represents probably 70% of the permits in the state of Oregon and at the present time, this is May, 2007, there are about 15,000 marijuana permit holders in the state of Oregon and it's increasing at a rate of probably no less than about 100 a month. So by this end of this year we will probably have, I would guess we'll have 16,000, maybe 18,000 permits out.

Bonnie: Well Dr. Leveque, I think that was terribly interesting and very helpful to our readership I hope that you've answered a lot of questions for folks out there and I imagine you've probably stirred some up too. If you have any questions for Dr. Leveque, this will be a regular segment on Salem-News.com. Just go ahead and email them to us here, at: newsroom@salem-news.com. In Salem with Dr. Phil Leveque, this is Bonnie King with Salem-News.com.

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR DR. LEVEQUE? Email: newsroom@salem-news.com



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