Observations From My First Week In A Medical Marijuana Practice
When we officially opened our doors on January 3, we weren’t sure exactly what to expect. With a 15 year broadcasting, marketing, and management career, I knew the mechanics of administration. But one thing I learned very quickly that I had yet to experience within my working life was a constant variable within healthcare – the patients.
Dr. Gordon, our office administrator Patricia, and myself have seen 56 patients in just 5 days.
Our scope of patients is amazing. From age 18 all the way to 85, we’ve had the privilege of meeting some truly incredible individuals. Veterans, police officers, educators, medical professionals, business owners, retirees, students, and everything in between.
Their stories are often heartbreaking, something I’ll freely admit I wasn’t ready for. One elderly gentleman suffering terribly from Parkinson’s disease struck such a chord with me that I had to walk out of the office to compose myself. Watching his difficulties signing his intake paperwork and witnessing his beautiful wife of many decades patiently steady his hand enough to mark his initials was something deeply emotional.
As I paced the parking lot, my mood shifted from sadness to anger.
How could the government say marijuana has no medicinal value? How could anyone tell a patient living in misery they couldn’t attempt better option with less side effects? Why do some doctors prescribe patients a duffel bag of pills a month but lecture them for wanting to try cannabis as an alternative? Why does there still seem to exist a tired, irrational, uneducated fear of a plant grown naturally and used medicinally for millennia?
While their individual illnesses and general stories vary, each patient we’ve seen has an undeniable renewed sense of hope in their voice because of the 6 million Florida voters that said “Yes” to Amendment 2. The most repeated statement in our office this week was “I just want to get off of all of these pills”.
The most frequently asked question (to which currently have no answer): “how long will it be before I can get my medicine?”
After a particularly long first day, Dr. Gordon looked at me and said, “I wish everyone who opposed [Amendment 2] and all of the politicians in Tallahassee would just sit on the bench outside of our front door and see who’s coming in and out of our clinic.”
I couldn’t agree with him more. I’d take it a step further and invite them to talk to our patients directly. At this point in our society, the only individuals who are against medical marijuana have no empathy for someone with a chronic and debilitating illness. Additionally, they’re completely ignorant to both the benefits of cannabis and the proven science behind those benefits.
With all of the attention we’ve received in the past few weeks from the news media there has been very little backlash, save for a few keyboard cowboys on social media who make their ignorance obvious.
Personally, what has been making me upset are the local municipalities who keep placing moratoriums on dispensaries. Currently the cities of Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice, Longboat Key, and Bonita Springs have “temporary” bans on anything dealing with medical marijuana. As a whole, Charlotte county commissioners enacted a 9-month moratorium.
Estero enacted their own moratorium in December. Last Monday, Dr. Gordon appeared on WGCU-FM alongside councilwoman Katy Errington. When pressed on the village’s decision to pause MMJ in their community, Ms. Errington expressed concern about the Federal illegality, possible unscrupulous operations, and the quickness of the state’s expansion of existing laws.
What Ms. Errington fails to understand is that marijuana prohibition and current Federal policy is purposeful deception. She also fails to understand that Florida has enacted a medical marijuana program, not a recreational. I believe her ignorance is an insult to any of her constituents suffering from cancer, ALS, MS, PTSD, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s, Epilepsy, or other debilitating and chronic illness. I would love to know if, after speaking to one of our patients, Ms. Errington would have the heart to repeat the fearful marijuana mantra back to them.
While so many politicians are attempting to silence the 71.3% super majority out of fear, one city (which I am proud to call my home) is one of the few on the Gulf coast that has passed legislation allowing dispensaries. In November, North Port’s commission moved to allow two dispensaries within the city limits. Ironically, nearly 60 percent of our patients we’ve seen this past week live within this city in southern Sarasota county.
As other cities should be chided for the limitations they’ve placed on the qualified patient’s future access to this medicine, North Port should be applauded. The men and women within the administration understand the compassionate spirit behind this statewide legislation and have displayed genuine empathy for those patients in such desperate need.
North Port should be seen as a model for what other governmental bodies should be doing – on the Federal, state, and local levels. We as a society have a moral obligation to help the sick obtain a better standard of life. For those patients approaching the end of their lives, we – as a whole – have an obligation to deny them nothing that helps them enjoy whatever time they have left.
No matter what side of the debate you are on, you owe it to yourself and chronically ill patients everywhere to educate yourself. There is an incredible body medical science that proves the benefits of cannabis and its derivatives.
Most importantly when someone says “just says no”, ask them if their response would be the same if it came to their wife, husband, father, mother, sister, brother, or child.
The battle might be won, but the war isn’t over. Let your voices be heard at all levels of government. Correct those with incorrect information. Don’t stand by passively and be a spectator. Become involved and demand a higher standard of patient care.