Black physicians discuss benefits of medical marijuana

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Editor’s note: This commentary is provided by the Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI) of Florida A&M University.

Dr. Genester Wilson-King is a board-certified gynecologist who started recommending medical marijuana treatments to her patients after Florida legalized it in 2016.

She’s one of the 2,500+ doctors in the state qualified to order medical marijuana and low -THC cannabis for patients with qualifying conditions.

“I always looked for other ways of helping my patients outside of pharmaceuticals, especially the ones people take all the time, and in my research, I found and learned about cannabis,” she said.

“Many women’s health conditions have multi-factorial components, including mood, pain, difficulty sleeping and hormone imbalance. The capacity of cannabis to act as an anti-inflammatory agent, a muscle relaxant, a mood enhancer, a sleep remedy, and a pain reliever, all at the same time, makes it ideal for women’s health conditions.”

Launching of ACHEM

Dr. Wilson-King is among a growing number of Black physicians focused on helping people of color consider the therapeutic benefits of cannabis through the Cannabis Health Equity Movement and its recently launched Association for Cannabis Health Equity and Medicine.

ACHEM (pronounced AyKem) is focused on educating health professionals and healers in a nationwide effort to raise awareness about cannabis use in the health care treatment of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), and to promote entrepreneurship and employment opportunities in the medical marijuana industry.

ACHEM was co-founded by Board Vice President Dr. Janice Knox, a nationally recognized endocannabinologist, speaker and authority on the subject of medical cannabis.

“We call ourselves endocannabinologists because we really study the physiology of the body [i.e., the endocannabinoid system] first and then the pharmacology of cannabis to emphasize the correct clinical application,” said Dr. Knox, a board-certified anesthesiologist and co-founder of The American Cannabinoid Clinics in Portland, Ore.

“When I talk to a patient, I am looking at the disease process, thinking about which receptors involved in that process I need to target, and then what is the best cannabinoid that is going to work on that receptor.”

The receptors she’s talking about are found throughout the body and the endocannabinoid system, which Dr. Wilson-King describes as one of the most important physiological systems in establishing and maintaining human health.

“The endocannabinoid system is responsible for helping us to relax, eat, and sleep. Cannabis works through the endocannabinoid system and utilizes such receptors as CB1 and CB2, plus some others, to affect change within the body,” Dr. Wilson-King explained.

Cannabis vs pharmaceutical

When comparing the use of medical cannabis versus some pharmaceutical medications, Dr. Angela “Kaya” Ledbetter, a board-certified emergency medicine physician in Houston, Texas and ACHEM board member, says it’s important to know that the safety profile of cannabis is better.

“It is a lot safer. Fortunately, cannabis has fewer side effects than a lot of other medications, which allows us the ability to experiment a little bit and work with a patient to figure out what works best with them.

I definitely believe there are great things about our modern medical system that does wonders for people, but I also believe that when our modern medical system was developed it demonized a lot of natural treatments.”

Dr. Wilson-King added, “Cannabis is a medicine, but you can’t think of it like a pharmaceutical. A pharmaceutical is a single molecular chemical that goes into the body to do a singular thing.

Cannabis is made up of multiple substances that go into the body and do a multitude of things. It is called ‘multiple mechanisms of action’, meaning it works in many different ways, and that is why cannabis can be so helpful for many different conditions.”

Removing the stigma

All three doctors hope the launch of ACHEM will help remove the stigma of medical cannabis use in the Black community.

“ACHEM is going to be very important for us to train clinicians and providers that look like us so we can change some of those old staunch beliefs in our community,” said Dr. Knox.

“I can tell you that when a Black patient saw my face, you could almost taste the relief that they had when I walked into the room. It’s a matter of trust.

If we can train more health care providers that look like us, explaining the science and the physiology and the benefits to our people, I think they will receive it better.”

To learn more about Medical Marijuana as Medicine, visit mmeri.famu.edu to watch MMERI’s Conversations on Cannabis Virtual Forum featuring Dr. Genester Wilson-King, Dr. Janice Knox and Dr. Angela “Kaya” Ledbetter on YouTube. For more information on medical marijuana, visit MMERI’s website at http://mmeri.famu.edu/

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