ArkansasOnline: Arkansas physicians prepare for medical marijuana; 6 willing to certify patients

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Medical professionals across Arkansas are joining the state’s budding medical marijuana business, though many health care providers remain ambivalent or are opposed to participating.

Medical marijuana isn’t yet legally available in Arkansas, and the first dispensaries or cultivation facilities could be months away from opening. But Arkansans are applying to be able to use the substance, with almost 300 people approved as of Friday, according to the state Health Department. Several physicians and at least one pharmacist are taking up their roles in the medical marijuana process as well.

“I see it as legitimate health care,” said Dr. John House with the Eureka Springs Family Clinic, who has recently certified several patients to use medical marijuana. “There’s been pain, HIV, cancer, a couple people with Parkinson’s who have spasms.”

Arkansas voters last year approved a constitutional amendment allowing marijuana use for 18 conditions and symptoms. The state is now taking applications for patients and businesses.

Patients’ physicians must certify their patients have at least one of the qualifying conditions, but the certification doesn’t endorse or prescribe the substance. A pharmacist consultant under state law must also be on hand at dispensaries to help ensure the marijuana doesn’t interact with other medications or get misused.

Thousands of studies in the past two decades have found evidence that marijuana or individual compounds in the plant provide relief from pain, muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis and nausea induced by chemotherapy, according to an analysis from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine earlier this year.

On the other hand, research also has found marijuana use can impair learning and attention and increase the risk of developing some mental health disorders and of being in a car accident, according to the analysis.

Several doctors and medical organizations pointed to how much research nonetheless remains to be done into marijuana’s many compounds, their dosages, the ways they can be ingested and other details typically determined long before traditional medications go on the market. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and research into it requires special permits.

The Arkansas Medical Society, a professional organization for physicians, and the state surgeon general opposed the marijuana amendment, as did the Arkansas Pharmacists Association, which later favored the law requiring pharmacists’ involvement at dispensaries.

Some physicians in Northwest Arkansas and Little Rock have said they’d be reluctant to sign off on marijuana use because their role essentially ends there. They can set an amount of time, up to a year, for a patient’s marijuana permit, but they can’t control the particular variety of the plant or its extracts the patient buys, as they could with a prescription.

“That would make me very cautious about who I pursue this process with,” Dr. Greg Sharp, a professor in pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said earlier this year. Sharp works with Arkansas Children’s Hospital to research how a marijuana-based compound called cannabidiol affects several seizure disorders.

Other groups are reluctant to publicly join the debate on any side. Mercy Northwest Arkansas has said that certifying someone for marijuana is a decision between a physician and a qualifying patient, as with any other treatment. Washington Regional Medical Center and Northwest Health spokesmen didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment last week.

“As long as our physicians are complying with the law as it stands and they’re in good standing with the state medical board, that’s what matters,” said Frazier Edwards, executive director of the Arkansas Osteopathic Medical Association.

House in Eureka Springs and other physicians are jumping in. The Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association is compiling a list of doctors willing to sign the certifications. Six are on the list so far, including House.

Dr. Tammy Post, another on the list, has a location in Springdale. A company called the Fort Smith Medical Group is also included. Neither returned phone messages last week asking for comment.

“We’re getting a lot of calls and emails from people who just don’t know who to go to,” said Storm Nolan, the cannabis association’s president. “We still have an education problem in that a lot of doctors still think they are recommending cannabis to treat these conditions.”

The original amendment approved by voters required physicians to weigh the potential benefits and risks of marijuana use in their certifications, but the Legislature struck that requirement this year.

Melissa Fults with the Drug Policy Education Group, an Arkansas group that supported the amendment, called it a “tragedy” if family doctors won’t sign certifications for longtime patients.

“These are very ill patients, and they are finally having the opportunity to get this medicine that we fought so hard to get,” she said.

House isn’t taking new patients, so his certifications don’t represent a new market for his clinic. Others are focusing specifically on marijuana. A retiring colleague of House’s, Dr. Dan Bell, hopes to open a dispensary in town, for example.

Josh Winningham, a pharmacist in Cabot, recently set up a company that will provide the required pharmacist consultation services to several dispensaries so that they won’t each have to hire a pharmacist. PhytoPharm.D will compile patients’ medical histories, watch out for their medications that marijuana might amplify or otherwise affect, and work with the patient to see if the marijuana is helping, he said.

He’s had some reservations about marijuana and said the nascent industry needs experts involved. Last week he held information sessions about the law and medical professionals’ roles in Fayetteville and Little Rock for other pharmacists, physicians and marijuana entrepreneurs.

“I really felt like somebody needed to step up,” Winningham said in an interview. “It’s happening in Arkansas; it’s been passed, it’s going forward.”

Dr. Dane Flippin in Jonesboro took an even more enthusiastic tack. He quit the family medicine he’d practiced for 20 years and started Arkansas Progressive Medicine in April to certify qualifying patients for marijuana. More than 100 patients have come in so far for visits for which he charges $250, he said, and business is gaining speed. The state charges $50 for a patient’s permit.

Doctors who focus mainly on marijuana sometimes draw accusations of being predatory or focused on money, but Flippin said he wants to help Arkansans while following state law. He goes through patients’ medical histories and ailments and decides whether to certify them in one visit.

“We’re not certifying everyone who comes through the door — it’s none of that crap,” he said. About half of his patients haven’t used marijuana in any form, relying on traditional pain medications or other treatments.

Everyone is different and might see different results with marijuana use, Flippin said, but he added, “I think a lot of people are suffering with what’s currently available.”

Jack Cross, a Eureka Springs real estate agent, said he was one of those people. The opioid painkillers he used after a late-stage, metastatic prostate cancer diagnosis last year left him like “a vegetable” in his chair without taking away the pain, he said.

“The cancer was still eating me up, and it hurt,” he said.

Cross researched chemotherapy’s effectiveness and learned about oil that can be extracted from marijuana plants. He thought medical marijuana could be a ploy, an excuse to smoke the plant. But he tried a drop of the oil in his mouth one night before bed.

In the morning, the pain was gone. Cross credits God and marijuana for the change and said it has allowed him to live normally. He plans to sign up for a patient permit and doesn’t expect any reluctance from his doctor.

“I was dancing on New Year’s Eve when I should have been dead,” Cross said.

Metro on 07/31/2017

Print Headline: Physicians in state prepare for Rx pot

97% Of Patients Decrease Opioid Medication With Cannabis: New Study Finds

A new study has found that 97 percent of patients suffering from chronic pain decrease their opioid medication when using cannabis.

And that’s great news for patients who struggle with opioid and non-opiate pain killer addiction, with thousands of people now choosing medical cannabis as a natural alternative.

A new study, carried out by Hello MD, published in the Journal of Pain Research, surveyed 3,000 patients suffering with chronic pain, and reached some amazing conclusions. The study, which looked at both opioid and non-opioid-based patients, found that a staggering 97 percent of those questioned ‘agreed or strongly agreed’ that they could decrease their pharma medication when using cannabis. At the same time, 92 percent “strongly agreed/agreed” they preferred cannabis over opioids to treat their condition.

Read the full story at CannaTech news.

Talk Business & Politics: Healthcare community still wary of medical pot; more education needed, proponents say

Click here to read the full article at Talk Business & Politics.

Proponents of Arkansas’ inexperienced medical marijuana industry hope that education and emerging research can convince more Arkansas doctors and other healthcare professionals of the medicinal value of the leafy drug.

Those efforts have already begun with several new proposed business ventures tied to the state’s emerging cannabis industry. Efforts include recruiting patients, doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel as investors, stakeholders and partners in a number of projects now in the medical marijuana pipeline.


One such proponent is Corey Hunt, co-founder of the social media-driven Illegally Healed online community, which promotes on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter videos, testimonials and other content on the medical benefits of marijuana. Hunt has assembled a group of medical and business professionals to apply for a medical cannabis dispensary license in Mulberry through a company called Natural State Healthcare.

“We have seen the difference quality education brings to the success of medical cannabis programs,” Hunt told Talk Business & Politics. “This is why we are sponsoring educational events throughout Arkansas with the purpose of educating patients, nurses, doctor and regulators about the medical cannabis science and research available throughout the world.”

Hunt said five years ago he walked away from his family’s Tulsa, Okla.-based technology business, PhoneDoctors, to promote Illegally Healed full time after losing his mother-in-law to breast cancer. It was then that the former medical marijuana skeptic said he began to research cancer cures and kept finding patients who praised medical cannabis as a treatment option.

“I came across marijuana and cannabis over and over in people who were using this fora treatment to mitigate the side effects in therapy,” Hunt said. “I (first) thought people were using this to get high and as a party drug …, but I started researching this and starting meeting patients who were using this not only for cancer and meeting kids who were having 100 of seizures a week and they started marijuana oil and they stopped having (them).”

Hunt said Illegally Healed is now the largest medical marijuana patient community on Facebook, reaching up to 7 million people per week with promotional and educational content on medical cannabis. Hunt, an Arkansas medical marijuana advocate who lives in Van Buren, said he travels across the U.S. and globally to speak about the healing properties of pot.

“I have been able to see the complete life cycle of the plant, from the cultivation and production to the dispensaries and the use and even from the healthcare provider side,” Hunt said. “I was able to see what was working with patients and what wasn’t working …, the successes and the failures. And because I wasn’t able to touch the plant in five years living here in Arkansas, I had the unique opportunity to look at the data and be objective and see what was working.”

However, there is still some reticence in Arkansas and nationally from doctors and others in the healthcare industry concerning medical marijuana. Under the state’s new regulations approved by the General Assembly earlier this year, an Arkansas doctor must verify that a patient has one of several qualifying medical conditions to receive a medical marijuana ID card from the state Health Department.

On June 30, the Arkansas Department of Health will begin accepting applications for medical marijuana registry identification cards on June 30, moving the state one step closer to allowing Arkansans to obtain pot by prescription for certain medical conditions. Also, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission has published requirements for submitting bids for up to five operators to grow and cultivate medical marijuana under the constitutional amendment that was approved by voters in the November 2016 election.

Those applications for up to five cultivation facilities and 32 dispensaries will be accepted June 30 with the final deadline being Sept. 18. State policymakers have said they expect the first sale of medical marijuana in Arkansas to take place in early 2018.

During the run-up to the November general election, the Arkansas Pharmacist Association opposed Issue 6 on the ballot that made Arkansas the first state in the Bible Belt to approve marijuana for medical use. APA Executive Vice President and CEO Scott Pace said then there was concern the framework for accessing marijuana for medical reasons would eliminate the healthcare practice from obtaining a prescription from a prescriber and having a medication dispensed by a pharmacist.

Pace told Talk Business & Politics on the first day of applications for pot growers and dispensary operators on June 18 that the APA is “more comfortable” with the pharmacy industry’s role after lobbying the legislature during the recent 2017 general session. The goal, he said, was to make sure patients were protected by having access to a pharmacist consultant at a dispensary if they choose to use medical marijuana for one of the 12 qualified conditions.

“We were successfully able to pass a bill thta will require the dispensaries to have a pharmacy consultant available,” Pace said. “We did that because we wanted to make sure the ‘medical’ aspects of medical marijuana were not forgotten because there is the potential for adverse drug events.”

During the Arkansas legislative session, a study by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement estimated that nearly 542,000 would qualify for medical marijuana under the state’s newly implement regulations.

Dr. Indra Cidambi, a New Jersey-based additional medical expert, opposes expansion of medical marijuana across the U.S., saying legalizing marijuana will normalize the popular recreational drug and adolescents will get more exposure during important development years.

“We will be sending a mixed message legalizing previously illegal drugs while we are in the middle of an opioid epidemic,” Cidambi told Talk Business & Politics. “And I can tell you from my experience of having treated more than 2,000 patients and 10 years of experience in medicine, the first drug that people use is marijuana and then they (use) other illegal drugs, like opioids and cocaine.”

Cidambi, founder and medical director for the Center for Network Therapy in Middlesex, N.J., likened the expansion of medical and adult use marijuana across the U.S. to the growth of alcohol and nicotine nationally. Cidambi said 30% of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder. Nearly 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will become dependent on it, she said.

“Marijuana is a powerful mind altering drug,” Cidambi said. “A lot of physicians still don’t grasp this, and that is a sad thing that I say that.”

The American Medical Association has not significantly changed its policy statement in 2009 that marijuana’s status as a Schedule I federally controlled substance be reviewed “with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoids-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods.” However, since that time, several physicians group have stepped forward to support the national legalization of marijuana. For example, the California Medical Association made history in 2011 by becoming the first major physicians’ association to endorse full legalization and regulation.

In April 2016, Little Rock native and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders joined doctors from some of the nation’s top medical schools to launch a new initiative to support efforts to end marijuana prohibition at the state and federal levels. The group, called Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, who call the so-called “war on marijuana” and other drugs a failure, believes the misuse of pot should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal one, and supports the federal legalization of marijuana that will direct tax revenue to evidence-based drug education and treatment.

Hunt and Storm Nolan, spokesman for the newly created Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association (ACIA), said proponents of the state’s emerging cannabis industry have a lot of work to do to educate the medical and healthcare community about the positive impact medical marijuana, using everything from conferences and seminars to patient testimonials and scientific research.

Nolan said his group is planning a number of seminars on the legal cannabis industry, ranging from sessions on marijuana extraction for non-smoking purposes and educational meetings for patients and the medical field to conferences on insurance bonding, transporting, physical security and cash-handling for the retail side of the business.

Nolan’s ACIA and Hunt’s Illegal Healed will host the “Medical Cannabis Patient Symposium” at 6 p.m., July 11, in Little Rock at the Comfort Inn & Suites. Hunt said there will panel discussions on cannabis use for children and cancer patient.

Guests will include 17-year old Coltyn Turner, a Colorado native who will speak about how he uses medical cannabis to treat Crohn’s disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Turner, according to event sponsors, is the first registered medical cannabis pediatric patient for Crohn’s disease in Colorado and possibly the U.S.

Another guest will be Sara Payan, a cannabis expert and advocate who is vice chair of the San Francisco Cannabis State Legalization Task Force. There will also be a patient access tutorial by Jerry Puryear of PharmD, which will include discussion on patient ID cards and what Arkansas consumers should expect from medical marijuana use and how it interacts with other drugs.

“This is a chance for patients and caregivers to discover how to have a conversation with your doctor and learn step-by-step how to register for the Arkansas medical cannabis program,” Hunt said.

A similar symposium will be held at 6 p.m., July 29, at the Hampton Inn in Fort Smith. Also during that day, a licensed doctor will be on hand between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to help people interested in obtaining a medical marijuana card.

And despite the continued wariness of medical marijuana use in Arkansas from Gov. Asa Hutchinson, state lawmakers and others in the healthcare community, Nolan said he believes continued educational outreach across the state will allow the fledging industry to gain a strong foothold in Arkansas.

“When you talk to people around the state, I think the general consensus is, (especially) the way the rules and our laws rules are set up, we’re going to have a pretty goodd shot at having a successful industry where people can actually make money.”

Arkansas Matters: Medical Marijuana Symposium Brings Patients Together

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- The focus Tuesday night was on the patients at a medical cannabis symposium hosted by the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association.

“Our goal as an association is to connect patients, who are suffering with medical cannabis that will help their ailments,” says Storm Nolan, ACIA President.

The organization held the event to educate Arkansans about conditions covered, how to get certified and find a doctor.

It also brought to the stage powerful testimonials like 17 year old Coltyn Turner’s, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 11 years old.   Turner suffered even worse decline from the pharmaceuticals he was taking and faced grim options.

“Surgery to remove over a foot of intestine, another pharmaceutical that would increase my chances of cancer by 66%, or we could research ‘alternative treatments’,” says Turner.

After moving to Colorado from Illinois and using medical cannabis, a colonoscopy, seven months later, revealed Coltyn had achieved clinical remission.

“Cannabis has saved my life and it’s the only thing that’s done anything positive for me.”

He brought his story to the Natural State where sick people who have never had access to medical cannabis could soon find relief.

Aspiring patient, Kelsey McBroome, says it’s an alternative treatment to pharmaceuticals that’s long overdue.

“The side effects of those pharmaceuticals, the headaches, the weight gain, the break outs, they’ve all been worse than my actual condition,” says McBroome.

So far the Arkansas Department of Health has approved 66 medical cannabis patient certifications.

THV11: Hot Springs plans to lift medical marijuana business ban

Read the full article at the THV11 website.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) — Those trying to bring medical marijuana businesses to some cities may face some struggles.

Hot Springs has a temporary ban of 90 days in place when it comes to business permits to bring cultivation facility or dispensaries there, while Siloam Springs has a 180-day moratorium. In Hot Springs, that could soon change.

Both cities recently adopted the moratorium, meaning there’s a temporary ban in place keeping them from offering business licenses for cultivation facilities and dispensaries. This is because those city leaders wanted time to look over the final rules and regulations to figure out how to govern them.

“In order to meet those requirements, we wanted to make sure we understood what they were,” said Bill Burrough, Deputy City Manager for Hot Springs.

Burrough told us the city manager and city attorney will recommend the board of directors lift the moratorium since they’ve now had time to read over the rules. He expects this decision to be made this upcoming Tuesday which would put Hot Springs back on the board for a location for dispensaries and cultivation facilities.

“I don’t see any reason the board would not lift it,” said Burrough.

As these bans remain in place for now, applications to grow or sell the drug are being accepted.

“If it goes too much longer, applicants from those areas can potentially file a complaint, a formal lawsuit,” said Storm Nolan with Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association.

Nolan argues these moratoriums don’t comply with the amendment which allows cities to set zoning regulations, but prevents them from prohibiting these businesses.

“Constitutional amendment 98 is pretty clear, the only way to limit it is it’s got to go to a voter referendum in the municipality or county where they’re considering the restrictions,” said Nolan.

These city leaders said they’re not trying to stop these businesses from coming there. Siloam Springs leaders said they’re still looking over the rules and hope to have recommendations for their board within 30 days.

© 2017 KTHV-TV

High Times: Arkansas Now Accepting MMJ Applications

Read the full article at the High Times website.


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The application period for people seeking to grow, distribute or use medical marijuana in Arkansas is officially open.

State officials opened the application period Friday and it runs until Sept. 18.

Voters last November made Arkansas the first Bible Belt state to legalize medical marijuana, clearing the way for people with certain medical conditions to use the drug. There are 18 qualifying conditions that allow people to be eligible for medical marijuana cards, including intractable pain, cancer, severe nausea, seizures and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The state Department of Health expects 20,000 to 40,000 people to apply to use the drug. Arkansas Department of Health spokeswoman Meg Mirivel said applications are starting to trickle in.

As of just about 2 p.m. Friday, the department had received 23 online applications and one paper application for the medical marijuana cards, she said.

The cards cost $50 and must be renewed yearly. All applicants must have a driver’s license or state-issued ID card to obtain a medical marijuana card, and those younger than 18 need a parent or guardian’s consent to apply.

The health department said the cards will be issued about 30 days before medical marijuana is available for legal purchase in the state.

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division will award five cultivation licenses and 32 dispensary licenses.

Several people throughout the state are hoping to get into the medical marijuana business, including Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association founder Storm Nolan and AR-Canna president and CEO Brian Faught.

Faught hopes to build several greenhouses on 5 acres of land in Fayetteville.

Nolan, who wants to establish a cultivation facility in Fort Smith, told The Associated Press that the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association has seen an increase in people reaching out about the process to obtain permits and licenses as the start of the application period approaches. He added that people seem satisfied with the application process, which requires a written certification form from a physician.

“I have not heard a complaint,” Nolan said.

He said the association’s goal now is to educate patients and physicians. It plans to host a symposium in July on how to navigate the registration process for a medical marijuana card.