What benefits do you see for patients throughout Florida within this space?
Medical cannabis treatment has been a blessing for many of my patients. I can’t tell you how many patients have thanked me saying that I saved their life, that they were helped in ways they have not been helped before and that they are enjoying the best quality of life they have had in years. Patients have expressed how much it means to them to wean off of opioids or significantly decrease their opioid intake and they have been thankful to stop their use of benzodiazepines for sleep, anxiety and pain. I often tell those individuals who doubt the effectiveness of medical cannabis that they should come and spend a day in my clinic seeing these patients and hearing the stories that are shared and the lives that are being changed. There is something overwhelmingly fulfilling when you can watch a patient with Huntington’s disease go from being in full chorea movements or a Parkinson patient struggling with their movement disorders go from a state of physical distress to complete calm where they can sit and have a normal conversation. Those experiences make me stand in awe of the effects of cannabinoids in these individuals’ lives. I could never imagine what their daily lives must be like, and I can only imagine how they feel not having control of their bodily movements. Cannabis helps them to achieve this state. It’s one of the best parts of my job as I get to see many patients with a wide array of illnesses experience the many benefits of the cannabis plant.
What motivates you to be a part of the cannabis industry?
My whole life has been a journey of living in my purpose personally and professionally to help others. That internal drive to help others in everything I do is who I am naturally so there is a continual pursuit to always learn and seek ways to not only improve myself but also to help those whom I come in contact with so that they can do the same. As the only known physician in the U.S. who holds a PhD in this discipline for more than two decades, it is my life’s goal to educate and consult with patients, physicians and the industry about medical cannabis while developing safe, maximally effective, therapeutic applications of cannabis and minimizing the use opioids and other more harmful pharmaceuticals to improve overall health and wellness. That’s the 40,000-foot view. The journey to be involved in the various parts of this industry is motivated by that philosophy. When it comes to impacting the lives of patients, I knew I had to be a recommending medical cannabis physician. This opportunity to provide access to an alternative medical treatment was a no brainer for me given my experience in the field and I’m grateful I can help patients in this way through my practice in Apollo Beach at my clinic, Compassionate Medical Cannabis Care (www.CMCCareFL.com). Given my doctoral research background in cannabinoids and the fact that most physicians continue to need a baseline education and resources to continually expand their knowledge base of how they can help patients with medical cannabis, I was compelled to bring various modalities of education through my conference for physicians (MediCannaposium®) and a one-of-a-kind 6-week course for physicians (MediCanna® Academy) that teaches physicians everything they need to know about how to start a medical cannabis recommending practice and successfully navigate medical cannabis recommendations for their patients. I also have the privilege of teaching thousands of physicians each year through many regional, national and international speaking engagements and through my best-selling book titled Cannabis and The Immune System. The impact to the medical cannabis industry through my business and consultation services (www.DrSashaNoe.com) with cannabis entities and organizations, is also a privilege as industries seek out expert partners who currently are and who remain ahead of the curve. My unique experience which combines research and medicine is invaluable to many as those of us in this industry create and execute our vision of the future of cannabis. It’s a thrill to be a part of such exciting times and to have my life’s work matter in such a significant way. I think everyone hopes and dreams for their life’s work to have an impact on others and I feel like I am living out that dream!
When did you start your practice in the cannabis space?
My experience in the cannabis space started during my graduate school days in 1994 when I made the decision to focus my PhD dissertation work on molecular and cellular cannabinoid immunology. This was in the very early stages of the discoveries in the field of cannabis and cannabinoids. Anandamide (the first endocannabinoid discovered) and the first 2 cannabinoid receptors were discovered and the genetic sequence for both receptors became available at that time. I decided to focus my efforts in this area because there was still so much to learn and discover. Now over 2 decades later, the research and advances in the cannabinoid field have skyrocketed. When I became a physician, it was a natural transition to bring that knowledge to my patients. Unfortunately, it took Florida a while to take a seat at the table as a state that allowed medical cannabis. However, once medical cannabis finally made it in Florida, I was able to truly bring my knowledge from the bench to the bedside. I remember initially when Florida physicians could start recommending low-THC CBD to a very limited population of patients. Those were interesting times. The ease of ability to recommend to patients improved over time and as the legal landscape evolved, I was able to expand the access to patients. While it can be frustrating to experience those changes with the medical marijuana use registry in Florida, over the years the overall process for certifying patients has become more efficient. I am thankful that I no longer have to have an established relationship with a patient for 90 days prior to being able to certify them and it was also sad to see how many patients missed out or had increased suffering due to delayed access to the treatment while these laws were evolving. I am happy that certifications now take a fraction of the time and patients can have easier access. When it comes to my motivation in this part of the industry, I will fight for patient access at every turn. Having the privilege to be a part of a team that works together to make legislative changes that improves patient access has been wonderful. What has been frustrating is the constant fight with the Florida legislature as they persist in interfering with the doctor patient relationship with THC caps and denying patient rights at every turn, be it regarding telemedicine, employment protections, reciprocity, and expanding access for more qualifying medical conditions, just to name a few.
What is your specialty relating to treating patients with cannabis?
As a board-certified Family Medicine physician my patients span all ages, and my focus is on preventative health and chronic disease management. The vast majority of my patients are adults who have multiple chronic medical conditions, and a significant portion of these adults are in the geriatric population. Having a PhD specifically in cannabinoid research for decades also brings a very unique expertise and perspective to each patient who presents to my office. When a physician with this level of research experience encounters a patient, that patient gets a very customized assessment of their potential risks, benefits, treatment options and guidance in medical cannabis treatment. I am able to offer patients a complete understanding of the breadth of cannabinoid research and the physiologic mechanisms associated with various medical illnesses in order to effectively treat their symptoms.
How did you get started within the cannabis industry?
With regard to my time as a physician and an entrepreneur, I decided to truly embrace my expertise, ignore the naysayer colleagues of mine who continue to fight against the facts and resist any notion of cannabis as medicine, and just keep helping patients, interested physicians and industry entities the way I know how. As physicians we all recognize the need for and importance of evidence-based medicine, yet we also operate in a space where we need to sometimes think out of the box. Thinking out of the box for cannabis is not so farfetched given the decades of research we have at our fingertips, yet we find ourselves working backwards in cannabinoid medicine and that is uncomfortable for some physicians. What I mean is that we have seen benefits from medical cannabis for thousands of years and now we are working backwards to elucidate the mechanisms and pathways through which these effects are occurring, all the while, continuing to expand our knowledge into new territories in medicine. In the last 30 years, there is so much we have learned to help give patients an alternative and often superior option. So, I am embracing this very specialized niche while spending my time trying to find ways to help patients, physicians and the industry from a one-to-one standpoint in my office to a one-to-many approach through my books, speaking engagements, conferences, business coaching and consulting, television and social media outlets (@DrSashaNoe). As a result, I created the entities mentioned above to get started and have an impact in the cannabis industry and I have had the honor of continuing to participate in fostering awareness and education about medical cannabis while helping to advance the field of cannabis with cutting edge research, education and advocacy.
Do you see Florida moving forward with recreational Marijuana/cannabis and how will that affect your business?
Yes, I certainly see Florida moving forward with recreational cannabis and I expect to see a period of time where there could be a drop in medical cannabis recommending practice revenues as patients take their health into their own hands and self-medicate with cannabis. However, after a while, individuals may find that their attempts at self-medication will not be effective, and they will seek out help from their physicians. The onus will be on the physicians to be educated enough to help their patients. States with recreational cannabis do see some drop in medical cannabis patients yet there are states where cannabis has been accessible for years recreationally and my physician colleagues who recommend cannabis in those states have a waiting list of patients to see and advise on medical cannabis use. Medicine is complicated and understanding human physiology and the complexities of a plethora of medical disorders and the factors that affects each individual is mission critical to safely using this or any other medical treatment. So, while there may be some decline in the volume of patients seeking professional guidance from a physician, there will always be a need for a physician to direct appropriate, effective, safe medical care to discerning patients who recognize that there is no ‘one size fits all’ option when it comes to medicine.