By James Bash
For the Hollywood Star News
Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon for adults over 21 years of age, a lot of folks are still scratching their heads over the drug that was classified as illegal for a long, long time. That includes a small but focused group who attended a lecture given by Christian Lé at the Hollywood Senior Center in early November. Over the course of 90 minutes, Lé, a board-certified internal medicine physician and founder of Green Earth Medicine (located at 65th and N.E. Sandy Blvd. in the Roseway neighborhood), gave a thoroughly engaging talk and answered questions from the audience.
Lé has practiced medicine for 28 years, with experience running hospital inpatient and intensive care units in Florida, Washington, and California. He ran the inpatient medicine program for St. Charles Medical Center in Bend before founding Green Earth Medicine. In medical school and afterward, Lé had been taught that cannabis was “just plain bad.” But he changed his career path because of a patient’s recovery.
“That patient was a Vietnam vet who had stage four pancreatic cancer and was taking opiates,” said Lé. “I brought him some cannabis to smoke. It helped a lot. He took an oil made from cannabis and got well. He should have been dead in three weeks, but he gained weight. Ten months later he went to the VA and showed them that he had recovered. He is still alive.”
Lé found that most doctors in this country used a cannabis tincture as a common cure-all until 1937, when the U.S. Congress banned cannabis. The ban was funded by John D. Rockefeller and William Randolph Hearst.
“Rockefeller was an oil baron,” remarked Lé. “Hearst owned newspapers and lumber. These men felt threatened by cannabis. People had heard that Mexican migrant workers would bring marijuana with them as a recreational substance and share it with black farmers. Rockefeller and Hearst were concerned about the hemp industry. Hemp is a [non-psychoactive] branch of the cannabis family and has been around for a long time. Some of the founding fathers grew hemp. The U.S. Constitution is written on hemp paper. It was in agricultural production until the 1930s. Rockefeller and Hearst realized that you could grow hemp very cheaply. You can produce fabrics and paper, and press the plant for oil that is combustible. The expense was minimal compared to digging for oil.”
Rockefeller and Hearst figured out that they could shut down hemp by associating it with cannabis.
“Editorials written by Harry Anslinger to scare the public were in all of the Hearst papers,” explained Lé. “They were profoundly racist: if we allow these dark-skinned people to keep coming into the country with this mind-altering substance, it would damage the character and moral fiber of Americans. So Congress banned all cannabis, including hemp, even though the American Medical Association supported its continued medical use. In the 1960s, President Nixon ignored the recommendation of the AMA and criminalized marijuana. The pharmaceutical industry has spent millions to keep cannabis illegal on the federal level.”
A lot of successful research on cannabis has been done in Israel. The U.S. government has greatly restricted clinical studies, because it considers cannabis “unsafe.” At the federal level, cannabis is classified in the same category as heroin and cocaine.
“There has yet to be a single documented death from the use of cannabis as a medicine,” noted Lé. “I’m not talking about getting high. A large pulmonary study of thousands of cannabis users in Jamaica shows that the lungs are not damaged from smoking only cannabis.”
Research has shown that some cannabinoids are anti-inflammatory and can reduce pain. The reduction occurs throughout the nervous system, but it does this differently from the way that opiates do. While opiates block the pain signal and create substance dependent issues, cannabis “turns down the thermostat” of pain and resets the thermostat to a lower level, which makes pain manageable.
There are currently over 68,000 Oregonians enrolled in the Oregon medical marijuana program. While the majority qualify due to “severe pain,” other qualifying medical conditions include cancer, glaucoma, neurodegenerative disorders, nausea, seizures, and persistent muscle spasms (OMMP October 2016 Statistical Snapshot). All of these conditions have been shown to respond favorably to cannabis treatment.
Lé provided information on specific compounds that we receive from cannabis and how they affect us. The bottom line is that there are a lot of positive outcomes from the medicinal use of cannabis.
“I have a lot of patients with real, serious problems,” said Lé. “The long list of pharmaceutical pills is no longer necessary for some of these people, and we are seeing some wonderful results with cannabis.”
For more information, call 503-303-8456 or visit www.greenearthmedicine.com.