Pubdate: Mon, 25 Mar 2013
Source: Taunton Daily Gazette (MA)
Copyright: 2013 Taunton Daily Gazette
Author: Marc Larocque


TAUNTON - A Taunton doctor has been at the forefront of the debate 
within the medical community in Massachusetts about marijuana as a 
medicine, supporting the use of the green, leafy substance to 
alleviate symptoms associated with a number of debilitating diseases.

In the run-up to the statewide vote last fall, in which citizens 
voted to legalize medical marijuana, Taunton pediatrician Eric Ruby 
advocated for the ability of doctors to recommend pot to their 
patients as a lawful way to alleviate symptoms. Ruby said throughout 
that time, he received backlash from the leadership within the 
Massachusetts Medical Society, but his strongly held conviction about 
the effectiveness of medical marijuana motivated him to keep pushing.

"I was the spokesperson for medicinal marijuana," said Ruby, speaking 
at his office in downtown Taunton. "I was lambasted by the MMS. 
People even said, 'Why don't you take up a cause that you can win?' 
. It was not pleasant. I said, well, you know what, this is going to 
happen, it's going to be passed."

Ruby said Massachusetts is now among 18 states with a medical 
marijuana law, while eight more are now on the cusp of getting their own.

Now that the Massachusetts voters have spoken - passing the law with 
a 63 percent majority - Ruby is calling for a regulatory system 
consistent with the intentions of the medical marijuana statute.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is set to issue a draft 
of its medical marijuana regulations on April 10. The law is 
scheduled to go into effect under those regulations on May 24. The 
issue of zoning has been discussed by Taunton City Council, and last 
week the Raynham Board of Selectmen unanimously passed a motion 
calling for a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries 
in the town (although, that will be up for vote at a Town Meeting in May).

"I hope they don't make it so prohibitive that doctors can't write 
recommendations for it and patients can't get it, because that's not 
in the spirit of the 63 percent who want it," said Ruby, who has also 
taken an upaid position on the board of ECO, a medicinal marijuana 
dispensary group with hopes to open a location on the North Shore. 
"How it works locally is going to be dependent on what Public Health 
promulgates in the regulations. ... (But) there needs to be quality 
control. Medical marijuana needs to be recommended by a physician who 
knows the patient, as is outlined in the law that was passed. You 
shouldn't be able give a doctor $200 and get a recommendation 
automatically. That shouldn't happen."

During the year leading up to the vote, Ruby told members of the 
MMA's assembly of delegates and board of trustees that they should be 
calling for research on medical marijuana, instead of putting forth a 
circular argument against testing because the substance is illegal.

Ruby cited studies he easily found - conducted by medical experts at 
the University of California, Hannover Medical School in Germany, Tel 
Aviv University in Israel, Peninsula Medical School in the United 
Kingdom, among others - reinforcing his beliefs about the 
effectiveness of cannabis for patients with psychotic symptoms of 
schizophrenia, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathic pain, multiple 
sclerosis, spasticity, Tourette syndrome, along with nausea and 
vomiting in cancer patients and other conditions.

Ruby said he has already advised an 18-year-old patient who told the 
doctor about marijuana's ability to alleviate social anxiety and 
panic syndromes.

"You have to listen to your patients," Ruby said. "If you don't 
listen to your patients, what kind of doctor are you?"

Ruby points to the hypocrisy that the government allows individual 
choice on matters of alcohol consumption and tobacco use, which carry 
their own proven health dangers.

Ruby also says he believes many patients who become addicted to 
opiates after they are prescribed may not become hooked if they were 
using medical marijuana instead.

"Marijuana is not a gateway drug," said Ruby, before explaining that 
prescribed opiate use can be dangerously addictive and destructive. 
"As a matter of fact, people hooked on OxyContin and Percocet, if 
they had marijuana for what their pains are or whatever it is, they 
may not have even gotten there."

Ruby said he did not ever consider marijuana as a medicine until he 
saw how useful it was for his son, Ethan. The younger Ruby was 
paralyzed after being hit by a car while walking in a crosswalk in 
New York in 2000, leaving him with no feeling below his chest, with 
the exception of chronic pain in his legs.

For the first two years after his injury, Ethan Ruby saw dozens of 
doctors, who prescribed him opiates to help him control the 
persistent pain. But he has since taken daily small doses of 
marijuana to help him manage the pain, using a "vaporizer" device, 
which extracts the active ingredients of marijuana in vapor form so 
he can inhale the drug without smoking it.

"I've found that taking doses of marijuana in various forms ... 
helped me manage the pain, and to cut the pain enough so I can focus 
on the task at hand," said Ethan Ruby, 37, who moved to Denver with 
his family last summer where he can legally and safely use marijuana. 
"Before I started using marijuana, the pain would keep me home from work."

Ethan Ruby, who grew up here in southeastern Massachusetts, said 
using marijuana has also allowed him to vastly cut down on the 
opiate-based drugs he was prescribed.

"If you want to run a successful business or be a productive member 
of society, being hopped up on opiates is not a viable solution," 
said Ethan Ruby, a former independent day trader who now works as an 
innovator and entrepreneur overseeing several projects, including 
Poker4Life, which fosters charity poker tournaments.

Ethan Ruby said he was proud of his dad for sticking up for people 
like him, whose lives have been changed for the better because of 
medical marijuana.

"I think my father is a champion for the people," Ethan Ruby said. 
"He is a medical voice for what people need to hear. ... He has used 
his decades of medical experience and knowledge to further the 
society of medicine."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom