From SCC member Anne Goebel April 6 in reference to Dr. Deborah Malka’s put-down on KPIX TV of the 420MD chain : 

I’m shocked that these clinics run by non medical people are making a sham out of medical cannabis.

I have experienced this myself at Medicann. They do us a disservice pretending to provide a legitimate medical service. Thanks for bringing this problem to light. They need to be exposed and the real medical providers like Dr. Malka highlighted.

Retro Message:  I think you may be expressing a majority viewpoint among SCC members nowadays. The founder, Tod Mikuriya, MD, felt otherwise. Tod died in 2007, and it’s possible his own perspective would be different nowadays. Also, he founded a “Research Medical Group,” not a church. Some of us who knew and admired him have to struggle against apostle tendencies. 

A primary focus of the CCRMG was defending Tod and other docs who were being investigated and/or prosecuted by the Med Board. When the first “cut-rate clinic” emerged (MediCann), Drs. Ellis, Lucido and Bearman wanted to sic the med board on them and were aghast when Tod invited Dr. Talleyrand to participate in the CCRMG (which Talleyrand did). 

Tod’s approach was inclusive and patient-centric.  He often said that the single biggest thing he did for patients was to confer safety and a sense of legitimacy on people who had walked into his office as criminals. The cut-rate clinics did that, too, he observed, and every person who got a recommendation would carry the message to friends and family that safe access to marijuana was now possible, and would feel more committed to defending their own access…  Tod frequently badmouthed  the medical establishment, especially Timmon Czermak (sp?) and the addiction specialists. The cut-raters, he noted, understood the safety profile of cannabis. The addiction specialists either didn’t get it or lied about it. 

Tod also understood that half the people in California live paycheck-to-paycheck, with young adults and third worlders being especially poor. He never expressed contempt for “their cheap bucks and their cheap piece of paper.” 

And I think you overestimate the extent to which the cut-raters “tarnish the image of medical cannabis.” It’s the corporate media that does that by failing to cover the medical side of the story. And TV is not the only source of people’s opinions and image of medical cannabis. People have their own direct experience and word of mouth from friends and loved ones. They get info from good reporters like David Downs and Steve Elliot,  not to mention the internet. 

 After Tod died, instead of helping his colleagues to sustain and build the SCC, David Bearman, MD launched another doctors’ group and began using SCC meetings to recruit members and sell his vanity press book. He recruited for his AACM at Patients out of Time, NORML meetings, etc. The AACM approach involves self-policing the specialty. It is  exclusionary, seeking to drive the cut-rate clinics out of business. 

The future of the specialty is up in the air to some extent. Jeff discussed it in a piece for the “O’Shaughnessy’s Leaflet” that we distributed at the ASA conference. He suggested a positive approach that the SCC might want to pursue —pushing for reimbursement from insurance companies for cannabis specialists who devote serious time to each patient. 

 For an expanded piece in the print edition, I would appreciate input from SCC members — hopes,  fears and musings about the future of the specialty. And it should be a topic of discussion at the next quarterly meeting, given that “legalization” is in the air.  —Fred Gardner

ps  Many a serious cannabis specialist, including Dr. Malka, got their start working for MediCann… At the ASA conference Jeff and I met Denise Cantin, D.O., who works for 420MD and in recent months has had to cover for the docs done in by KPIX…. This is a complicated business and a complicated story.  Guess who sicced the med board on 420MD? It was another cut-rate clinic. (The med board’s concern is not the doctors’ practice standards, but whether 420MD is physician-owned.)  Capitalism doth make rivals of us all.