Top Cannabis Insights from a Medical Professional
How long have you been involved in the industry?
I’ve been adding botanical medicines to my conventional medicine practice for the past decade and been talking with my patients about cannabis specifically for medical use for half a decade now, back when it was still a no-no topic in most medical circles!
What were you doing before you joined?
I’m a medical doctor so treating patients has been my focus for the past decade. I’m double board qualified in Family Medicine and in Integrative Medicine so I use a combination of conventional drug therapy as well as cannabinoid medicines, nutritional and functional medicine, and mind-body medicine. All from a very evidence-based perspective since this is my training and background from the USA and Canada. I’m also a speaker and author and work in the nonprofit sector for medical cannabis and drug policy reform as well as mentoring physicians and teaching. It’s a great mix and I love it!
What was the thought process that drove you to the industry?
I got interested in medical cannabis through my patients who had been using it for years and from my colleagues in the US who were way ahead of their time and started to talk to me about their findings. In 2015 I had a very serious hand injury and used it topically myself and found it made a huge difference! Because of my Integrative Medicine specialty backgrounds, which evidence-based botanical medicine is a part of, it was natural for me and for my patients.
Based on your previous experience — what skills and expertise have you brought forward with you that has been useful?
Well, since I do a combination of teaching, writing, and speaking as well as my medical work, I use quite a wide variety of skills but the scientific method of inquiry, curiosity and a huge desire to keep learning alongside my other background as a published researcher all come in handy for my work in Cannabis to help problem solve and come up with creative solutions. I also have to use my stress management toolkit since I work pretty long hours and juggle multiple projects at a time so a daily meditation practice is pretty key for me too.
What was the attraction to this space?
It’s really one of the most exciting areas of both wellness and medical therapeutics so as a medical doctor specialising in evidence-based natural medicines it is the perfect fit. I also love the fact that the industry brings together such diverse people from recreational growers to top researchers, it’s a mix that fosters innovation and open-mindedness
As a medical professional, what were your assumptions and expectations before joining this industry?
I had many prejudices against cannabis growing up and then solidified in medical school such as that it was a highly addictive dangerous gateway drug of abuse, has no medical value, was bad for the brain, and that medical cannabis was an excuse to get high and invented by stoners. These were all, of course, false beliefs but coming from that starting point I think has also helped me to relate to and educate my more skeptical medical colleagues about these outdated notions so in many ways it’s been a strength.
Where did you get your information and research from before you joined?
Reading medical journals, research papers, expert peers and discussion around cases, and my patients ie real-world data!
Now that you’re in the industry, what is it actually like? What are the actual challenges?
Same, although one of the reasons I wrote the CBD Bible was to provide a complete resource for everything CBD and cannabis, by topic and usage area as well as including all the latest evidence and research but in an easy to understand format accessible to everyone. One of the challenges with cannabis is that since we have not been able to study it for so many years due to prohibition, we are still playing catch up and the obsession with the Randomised Controlled Trial model can be a detriment. We also need to start recognising real-world data too which can still offer much value, this is part of the wisdom I have learned by working with thousands of patients using these medicines. I’m involved with some of these projects here now as a physician advisor such as the T21 Drug Science study with Prof David Nutt and Dr. Chloe Sakal and colleagues.
Without giving away too many insider secrets, what is it that you’re working on at the moment?
A second book, a very exciting new project in both the CBD wellness and medical cannabis space with some incredible colleagues and my work on the nonprofit side as vice-chair of the UK MCCS for our education campaigns and possibly a TV show next summer. I’m also having a baby in October!
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get involved in the industry?
There are many challenges but I think it’s a great industry and community to be involved with and it will only grow.
Where do you see the industry going?
Better access to medical cannabis for patients, wider acceptance of the plant and CBD, and also cannabis possibly replacing alcohol or as an alternative to it socially. Cannabis has paved the way for other plant medicines such as psilocybin which is derived from magic mushrooms and has great therapeutic potential for treatment-resistant depression to name one.
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