Pubdate: Wed, 26 Oct 2016
Source: Petrolia Topic (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The Petrolia Topic
Author: Melissa Schilz
Page: 3


Modern medicine has evolved greatly over the years in treating cancer
and other illnesses. We have radiation and chemotherapy to reduce
tumour growths, we have opioids to decrease pain and there are a
number of over the counter drugs we can buy when we're feeling under
the weather.

But what about using marijuana in treatments for life threatening
diseases and other life-altering ailments?

It's not talked about very openly, in fact many who use cannabis oil
tend to keep it under wraps, said Don Keith, a medical marijuana
license holder in Petrolia. That's why he has planned a discussion
group at the Petrolia library on Friday, Oct. 28, to offer support and
a safe place to talk about using medical marijuana without ridicule or

Keith has been using cannabis oil to treat cancer of the esophagus
since he was diagnosed last May. He said that when it comes to his
use, he doesn't experience any negative ramifications. Keith said he
takes cannabis oil orally twice a day.

"The side effects are minimal, you get sleepy more than anything and
that's good! Your body is healing when it's sleeping," he said. "I'm
not on any pills, nothing."

Keith said the strain he uses is originally from Afghanistan, but
there are hundreds of varieties across the board. He said he hopes to
get those who are either using marijuana or considering it to come
together and learn more about how it can help with certain conditions.

"I'm a cancer victim and there are lots of people out there who have
problems," he said. "There is nothing wrong with marijuana."

Keith said he thinks alcohol use is more of a problem than cannabis,
especially when it comes to impaired driving. Despite marijuana being
used for hundreds of years, media and films, like Reefer Madness, have
demonized the plant and those who choose to use it.

Carmen Loucks is a pharmacist from Sarnia, working at a small clinic
in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, where she is part of a chronic pain
management team. Loucks has also worked with Health Canada in the
medical marijuana access division, where they approve individuals for
licenses to possess and grow cannabis.

While medical marijuana has been approved to treat numerous chronic
illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis and glaucoma, Loucks
said she has also seen it used with those who suffer from severe
anxiety, epilepsy and spinal cord injuries, just to name a few conditions.

"I honestly think that culture and mass media are responsible for many
people's views on marijuana and that medical marijuana use is vastly
misunderstood," she said. "It does so much good for so many people and
would be better utilized if marijuana was legal."

Loucks said that when it comes to using medical marijuana, those who
use it are not your typical stoners, despite what some may think. On a
recent trip to Portland, Oregon, where marijuana is completely legal,
Loucks said she saw middle-aged businessmen and elderly women with
arthritis at the dispensary.

"I think that if it does become legal in Canada like it is in parts of
the U.S., less and less people would be opposed to its use because
they would realize that many respected professionals and everyday
people already depend on it to function," she said.

While some may worry that legalization would mean more users, and
therefore more impaired people on the roads, chances are those who
wish to use marijuana to treat illnesses are likely already doing it,
even if that means they are obtaining it illegally.

"What it boils down to is that legalization would mean more people
that need it would have access to it and more research could be done
to determine how it can be used as safely as possible," Loucks said.
"Some people have told me that marijuana is the only thing that treats
their pain."

While there are some side effects to using medical marijuana, such as
euphoria, increased appetite, decreased reaction time, as well as
increased risk of psychosis and decreased testosterone levels, the
effects seem minimal when compared to drugs that are legal and often
over-prescribed among society. The nation has been experiencing the
horrifying effects of drug addiction, with a rash of fentanyl related
deaths across the country in recent months.

"I have heard some scary stories from patients that either use or used
to use opioids," Loucks said, noting that risk for dependence and
addiction to marijuana is much lower than more powerful drugs like
Oxycontin. "[I know of ] a young girl with chronic pain who became so
addicted to her fentanyl patches she began to cut them open to suck
out the fentanyl. She had to spend six months and $60,000 in rehab to
get off of it."

Loucks also said she finds many people may not realize that THC and
traditional medicine actually have some overlap. There are currently
two prescription medications on the market in Canada that use
cannabinoids as their primary ingredient. One of those is Nabilone,
and it is essentially synthetic THC. Another is called Sativex, and it
is cannabis sativa extract that is sprayed into the mouth to treat
pain, MS or cancer.

And while some people may not want to obtain marijuana legally through
their doctor or pharmacy, Loucks said that paying the extra money for
it is worth getting exactly what you need to treat what ails you.
While what you get on the street has no guarantee on THC content, what
you buy legally is consistent when it comes to dosage.

"With medical marijuana, they [can] feel comfortable smoking their
dose every morning and knowing there will be no surprises when they
get to work or while they are out doing their errands," she said.
"It's unfortunate that there are so many restrictions and stigma
surrounding medical marijuana use because we could significantly
improve the care of patients with cancer and chronic pain if we could
conduct bigger clinical studies and better understand its effects."

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When: Friday October 28, 1:00 p.m

Where: Petrolia Library

Cost: FREE

Contact Don Keith for more information: 519-882-0998
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