The upside of medicinal marijuana is the plant has so many healing uses, patients will be able to treat everything from lupus, fibroids, type I and 2 diabetes, endometriosis, and glaucoma to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, PTSD, depression and arthritis.
The downside? Finding a “doctor” with hands-on medicinal cannabis experience.
One of the biggest obstacles patients will encounter when Nevada’s dispensaries open is finding a medical professional who has significant knowledge of both cannabis-based medicines and the various diseases and conditions medicinal marijuana can treat. Patients will not only need to find a “doctor” to guide them to the correct medicine, but also the correct dose.
Because there’s no course in medical school about medicinal cannabis, patients will have no choice but to turn to those who have been self-taught. One resource available to Southern Nevada’s patients is Lance Parvin and Adam Sternberg, co-founders of the Compassionate Awareness Project (CAP), an organization established in 2014 dedicated to helping individuals and their families who are dealing with debilitating and often terminal conditions, www.compassionawarenessprojectorg.
“This project got started because the clients we were taking were told there was nothing more that could be done for them,” Parvin, who is not a doctor, says of CAP. “A lot of people have had the hope taken away from them.”
Parvin knows that feeling all too well. He, too, had hope taken away from him.
“The reason I originally got into this was my wife. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011,” explains Parvin. Santi Parvin had a typical course of treatment that included a lumpectomy and radiation and all seemed fine, as Parvin tells it.
Fast forward to 2014 — suddenly Santi started experiencing symptoms similar to vertigo. “It turned out she had brain tumors. It came out of the blue. There were no symptoms prior to the vertigo and non-stop throwing up,” he explains.
Santi went through a suggested course of treatment of whole brain wave radiation, but it had zero effect. “It did absolutely nothing. What it did do was give her brain damage. The MRI showed that it had zero impact on the tumors.
At this point, they said good luck. So I understand what these patients who don’t have much hope are going through.”
That’s when Parvin started using his background in Herbal Psychopharmacology to research medicinal marijuana and look at all the information and studies available. “After doing some research I decided this was a viable treatment and I started my wife on it,” relays Parvin of giving Santi cannabis oil by mouth and in gel cap form. “Within two days she was a different woman, within four weeks four of her five tumors were gone and the last one was smaller. And at that same time, she was on no other treatment.
“When her MRI showed the tumors had decreased in size, the doctors were shocked. Her friends were very surprised because she was very low in the functioning scale and almost in a vegetative state prior to taking cannabis oil.”
According to Parvin, Santi’s doctor was so incredulous at her results that he wrote ‘WOW!’ on her MRI report and commented that Lance ‘knew more about medicine than him.’
Naturally, news of Santi’s miraculous results spread and, in turn, the Compassionate Awareness Project was born.
“At this point, we had been around other cancer patients who were Stage 4 and they decided they had nothing to lose because they were all being given a terminal prognosis,” explains Parvin of how he had individuals coming to him interested in trying medicinal cannabis oil. “Suddenly we were being approached by people who needed help. Over time it had an exponential effect, all of their friends and family were referring others and word started spreading.”
CAP teaches patients how to track their progress, get their medicinal marijuana card so they have legal access to cannabis oil, and educate them about dosing. “We are just consultants. We explain the different options that are out there. We try to help them so they have control of their own medicine and their own health,” explains Parvin. “We find out what their preexisting conditions are, what treatments they have had — we go through the normal course of treatment.”
Parvin doesn’t discourage patients from seeing their doctor or specialist and continuing with their pharmaceuticals. “In the numerous studies I have read, there have been no contraindications with medical marijuana use so we advise clients to inform their doctors that they intend to take medicinal cannabis.”
Because there is so much misinformation and few places to turn for guidance with regard to medicinal cannabis, Parvin has become a resource for the medical industry. “There aren’t many people you can turn to, to find out what is correct. We work with doctors. We have had oncologists from other states call us and even scientists from other countries have called to consult with us. Minds are changing and more and more, doctors are encouraging patients to try medicinal marijuana.”
Although Parvin has found not all doctors are quite ready to make the leap. “Rather than finding things in their state and reaching out to different scientists and looking for proof of why this is working, physicians use the excuse that they don’t want their patient to get high from THC. They say, ‘they would never give them the option of medicinal marijuana,’ meanwhile they are giving them a prescription to an opiate that gets them high.”
This leads Parvin to discuss the most challenging part of championing the benefits of medicinal marijuana and shepherding the Compassionate Awareness Project through its infancy. “The hard part is changing years and years of brilliant marketing from a federal level that this is bad,” extols Parvin. “Shaking the preconceived notions the public and the private sector have about cannabis and that there is a difference between a plant and a synthetic drug.”
Parvin, who is currently consulting with approximately 50 clients in Nevada, has long-term plans for CAP. “The whole premise of the Compassionate Awareness Project is researching in this field and showing what this oil can do. So, yes, this is a long-term commitment because in the short term I have proven that it has been successful.
“As people get results, that’s true knowledge. When a patient’s cancer goes away, that’s proof. But at the end of the day, how many studies are enough? If you or a family member is dying and they get better — that’s the only study you need and that’s what will start the change as to how people view treatment.”
Although a lot of clients who have been advised by CAP have had positive results (see CAP client medical profiles on pages 16-18), medicinal cannabis has not provided a cure for everyone. “There are patients who have passed,” Parvin says in circumspect. “But I will say this, anyone who has chosen to use it — their quality of life has dramatically improved, giving both the family and the patient comfort and quality of life. Even if it doesn’t save a patient, it gives them a quality of life they didn’t have.”
Parvin emphasizes that medicinal marijuana won’t hurt people taking it and there are a lot of benefits but there is a downside with regard to the psychoactive component of the plant. “Initially when something new is introduced to the system, there is a small psychoactive effect. It’s like lucid dreaming but those components do go away in a short amount of time.”
But as Parvin is finding, if you have a loved one who is terminal and has been told there is nothing more that can be done for them, then it doesn’t matter how strongly you are against medicinal marijuana. You will try just about anything to, at the very least, bring them relief and comfort.
Parvin understands that better than anyone because in the end his wife, Santi, didn’t make it. Perhaps if they had eschewed traditional medicine and she would have had access to medicinal cannabis sooner she would still be here. And that certainly lends to his motivation in founding the Compassionate Awareness Project. He passionately concludes, “People should be mad because if you have ever lost a loved one to a disease that this plant could fix then you should be angry.”
But in spite of his zealous belief in the healing benefits of medicinal cannabis, Parvin isn’t forcing himself on anyone. “I am not a used car salesman for cannabis,” he says. “The whole reason people come to CAP is to be aware and see what’s out there. I tell the people who come to me to explore all their options. I just try to put the power back in the client’s hands. I tell people they have lots of options, they should explore them and ultimately they will make the decision that works best for them.”