What benefits do you see for patients throughout Florida within this space?
As a wholistic pediatrician who has worked with herbs as medicinal remedies for more than twenty-five years, I can unequivocally say medical cannabis is the most beneficial and versatile natural treatment I have utilized in treating patients. It is amazing one category of therapy can treat such a broad range of health conditions. For example, medical cannabis can help eliminate seizures, treat anxiety and depression, relieve chronic pain, and significantly reduce the core symptoms of autism, such as violence, irritability, hyperactivity and insomnia … plus so much more. The medicinal applications of cannabis are truly amazing.
What motivates you to be a part of the cannabis Industry?
I have dedicated my career to serving as a primary care physician for both children and adults, with expertise in treating patients with chronic conditions and special needs. Based on my experience utilizing herbal medicines, often in conjunction with western medicine, I was confident medical cannabis would be a valuable treatment resource for many patients.
In 2016, after Florida voters overwhelmingly approved adding access to medical cannabis into the state constitution, I launched Wholistic ReLeaf, a division of my primary medical practice, Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care, which has been serving the greater Tampa Bay area and beyond since 2005. The sole focus of Wholistic ReLeaf is to evaluate, certify, educate, and treat patients who meet the State of Florida’s legal requirements for receiving medical cannabis.
My main motivation for working in the medical cannabis field is the ability it gives me to help such a wide array of patients find successful treatments. Medical cannabis has very few side effects, especially compared to other medications, and any side effects that occur can usually be minimized with proper education.
At Wholistic ReLeaf, we have a dedicated, full-time patient educator on staff who meets with the patient/caregiver at the end of each appointment and is available at no charge throughout the 7-month certification. We have received incredible feedback and gratitude from our patients for including education in our certification procedures. It is critical to provide such comprehensive services to people in need. It is also gratifying to hear so many patients express optimism at their initial appointment, after years of suffering; and then at follow-up appointments see how much progress most of them have made (often with a reduction of their pharmaceuticals).
I have become quite experienced in “medication management” for people whose cannabis treatments have not been optimized, including those based on recommendations made by other certifying physicians. We can usually guide such patients toward a better outcome. On so many levels, working in the medical cannabis field is incredibly rewarding.
What field are you in within the cannabis space?
Although I specialize in pediatric medical cannabis, I am also very experienced working with adult patients. As a pediatrician, I am one of only a few certifying physicians in Florida who is truly qualified to treat children. I am told I have treated more children in Florida with medical cannabis than any other physician, and I am among the top five in the nation. I am also frequently asked to do educational consultations with patients from across the United States and internationally.
In my experience, most doctors are uncomfortable with the thought of giving cannabis to children; as a wholistic pediatrician, I am confident in the safety and efficiency of using cannabis as a medical treatment for children, especially compared to the other drugs often prescribed to pediatric patients with chronic conditions. When used appropriately, THC can be life-changing for a child; and when the child improves, it can bring profound relief with lowered stress and increased confidence, for the caretaking family. We educate patients and families how to utilize as little THC as possible. Used in conjunction with CBD, the CBD can lower or even totally block the psychoactive effects of the THC.
How can people in Florida benefit from the company you represent?
Wholistic ReLeaf brings a unique perspective and knowledge base to patients and their families. Unlike most doctors in the medical cannabis field, I came to this work with decades of experience treating patients with natural remedies. I have always been a physician who thinks outside the box and works with patients to creatively solve problems based on their individual circumstances.
Our clinic utilizes an advanced patient portal and intake system, has developed streamlined office processes, and offers a kind, caring team of staff and physicians. This approach enables us to provide a pleasurable and informative experience for our patients and their families. I personally train all physicians who work for Wholistic ReLeaf, so patients can be assured they will get a similar, comprehensive experience whether they see me or one of my colleagues.
How did you get started within the cannabis industry?
The moment medical cannabis was presented as a potential constitutional amendment, I intuitively knew I needed to step forward as a leader in the field. I am thankful the State of Florida has given us a good system to work within, where doctors and patients — not the government — are in control of developing an appropriate, personalized treatment plan for each patient.
Are you personally a MJ card holder?
Yes, I was diagnosed with a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor just before Florida legalized cannabis for medical use.
Do you see Florida moving forward with recreational Marijuana/cannabis and how will that affect your business?
I see the country heading in this direction. If Florida decides to tax recreational use while maintaining tax-free status for products purchased through medical certification, medical cannabis patients will likely pay less and be given more options than what will be available through recreational dispensaries. This has been the case in many other states who legalized medical cannabis followed by recreational legalization. When this happens, some adults will inevitably choose to forgo the medical cannabis system and, instead, attempt to “self treat.” Since cannabis will never be recreationally legal for children, there will always be a portion of the population who must get certified through a qualified physician. As a pediatrician, I am particularly grateful I will be able to continue helping children in need, even if cannabis becomes recreationally legal for adults.