Sep 06 2016 . 13 min read
Elevating the Conversation with Dr. Liz McDuffie
Elevating the Conversation with Dr. Liz McDuffie
As director of the Medical Caregivers Institute, mccdirectory.org, Liz McDuffie is all about education. She has been teaching cannabis classes since 2006 in California and now she is bringing that valuable knowledge to Nevada. Her ultimate vision is to create a Nevada Medical Marijuana Information Resource Center that will house a cannabis bookstore, a cultivation workshop for patient growers, a doctor’s office with telemedicine services, and a classroom area. Of the center, McDuffie says, “I have lived it, I have done it, it’s the happiest place on earth.”
When I discovered it in 1967 I was working in Germany for the Army. As a child I suffered from very severe headaches and those followed me into adulthood and they were very debilitating. I went to see a German doctor there and she recommended hashish, I didn’t know what it was or anything about it, but I did find hashish in Frankfurt. It didn’t stop the pain altogether but for the first time in my life I could function, and before I would have to go in a dark room and put ice on my head and it was just a really horrible experience. I was really impressed with this medicine and so I started reading about it and there was just a preponderance of history of its medicinal use and I became a proponent of cannabis as a medicine.
I decided the best way to proceed was to have an educational program and so I began to recruit people to work on getting the educational program together and teach California’s medical marijuana program and that’s how I started with MCC in 2006. The best way to put your foot in the community was to open a medical cannabis information and resource center. I promise you, no matter how much you are going to try to give out to that community, it’s nothing compared to what comes back to you in resources -- from cultivators to people with inventions. It’s been a breathless 10 years of working with all of these different instructors on topics that include everything from extraction to teaching physicians about compliant approval. It’s been so amazing to see what I have been able to see in terms of how this whole thing is moving ahead.
The more I studied cannabis, the more it became an amazing phenomenon. It was in our pharmacology prior to 1937 and the advantage of having this herb as a medicine was really wonderful and then suddenly it’s gone and demonized. It’s very hard when you are talking about the benefits of cannabis in the face of people being so convinced that it’s not a good thing. I stopped arguing about it and stopped defending it. I felt I was arguing that the earth was round. I ended up not feeling good about it until DJ Short (one of America’s most prolific cultivators) told me a few years ago how to handle it. He told me to ask those opposed, to name something safer and when he said that, it was just such a profound statement. So now that’s all I say. I just ask them to name something safer. Cannabis has never contributed to the death of anyone throughout its entire history and that’s quite a statement to make.
I had to come to Nevada because the program just blew me away. That was absolutely a must. It was wonderful because, first of all, the program allowed physicians to own MMEs. That was it for me because for the very first time the medical was brought into the program. The federal government has kept the doctors at arm’s length because you can’t prescribe it, you can’t dose it. They tried very hard to keep that Pandora’s box shut, but thank goodness the federal government upheld the physician’s right to recommend it or approve it. But they drew that big red line – you can’t tell them where to get it, you can’t prescribe it. I said I went to Vegas for the doctors and that was true, it was everything to me because it put medicine into this program, it made it medical and doctors could own MMEs and that was defiant of federal laws.
I went to speak to doctors in Mesquite and they are fine with cannabis but they are in these fishbowls there and they don’t want to be branded as the pot doc in that area. And I thought how in a state, like Nevada, are you going to reach all these doctors in these little towns and communities? I heard they were doing telemedicine in California so I wanted to see about doing that here in Nevada. When I found out from the medical board that telemedicine could be used in Nevada legally, I did the Jackie Gleason shuffle all the way down the hallway. Because one of my major goals, the irony of it, is that with all of these dispensaries and all of the beautiful stuff going on, is that we never got it to the people for whom it was intended. Is that an irony or what? Because they are in hospice, residential care, assisted living, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, senior daycare, that’s where they are and we now have telemedicine, that’s the final key to me. The reason telemedicine is legal for a physician’s approval, and I love this so much because that means it’s going to be legal in every state if they really push it, the very basis of the legality of using telemedicine in the healthcare field was for a physician to complete a medical form created by state statute. So it opens it up to every patient who can’t get to the doctor or to the dispensary. The telemedicine was a surprise, and that was the gift Nevada gave to me.
I am trying to protect the individual’s right to grow so I want to open up a cultivation workshop, and create a safe place for patients to come and learn to grow. You are allowing these patients to participate in the program because that’s allowed in Nevada, that a patient who cultivates can take their medicine to a dispensary. When we get a workshop set up with 25 patients, it takes them 7 hours a week to maintain their plants. We will have a cultivation manager in the workshop at all times supervising activity. The patients will pay $350 to $400 per month to have the supervision and training to pay the overhead and electricity and after their crop is weighed in and documented it goes through the correct channels to get it into dispensaries and then that patient has reasonable compensation and they are getting that back to pay for overhead. You are allowing a patient to learn to cultivate and actually benefit and be a part of the program. Those 25 patients can generate 30 lbs. every seven to eight weeks of organic medicine that is Clean Green certified.
I taught a two-tent system; one with four vegs in one tent and as those two are flowering, you take two out of the veg and stick them in the flowering tent, and put two new clones in to replace them. Then you have a perpetual harvest going in this damn little system every seven to eight weeks. I taught this small scale growing system for five years, then one day I had a fire here in the grow because one of the wires was faulty. The insurance company came in and fixed everything up and I was back in business. That’s when I found out there was no insurance for anyone cultivating in a residence, and that’s serious because when you are growing inside, you have got a lot of plugs going on. You have got aerators, fans, lights, if you are doing hydro you’ve also got that so when I got that news I felt like the stupidest ass on the planet. I mean if a kid got burned or someone lost their house, here I am teaching this damn system. But when you think about it, Nevada is allowing people to grow, and there’s no insurance for it. In a sense that’s a liability to the state. The night of the fire was an epiphany for me, I realized it’s really not the right place to grow, in your neighborhood. And where is that going if you have two plants and you can only have two ounces? So that was the birth of the cultivation workshop. And I mean to tell you I have lived it, I have done it, it’s the happiest place on earth. The system is so simplistic, I set it up in the center and the plants are in there growing.
I am wondering when someone is going to tackle the 800lb. gorilla in the room. The state is allowing individual patients to cultivate 12 plants; well, the fact is you are only allowed to have two ounces of medicine but the minute you grow one plant you are over the two ounces. You have the plant harvesting and you have got eight ounces or 12 ounces on one plant. Or let’s say six ounces, you are only allowed to have two ounces. The question is what happens to that extra medicine? Is it a set up? So if your neighbor complains, and the police come and you are over the limit, you are now fodder for the courts. So if, indeed, you are going to allow these people to grow 12 plants, let them grow it in a safe, secure and insured environment. And let them not get in trouble with overproducing when they are over their two ounces. So what happens if they are over? No one chooses to address that. That’s just setting you up. How do you handle that? Once you do that, what are you supposed to do? Go bury it out in the desert? I keep bringing it up to people and nobody wants to address it but it’s serious.
I see the Nevada Medical Marijuana Information Resource Center as a place where these is a cannabis bookstore, a little kiosk for juices, 10 participants doing the workshop and tending to the plants. There’s also a doctor’s office in there, a classroom area and that’s sort of a vision I have. And take this back to your state and your community and this is the way you protect the patient’s right to cultivate by providing a safe, insured supervised environment, and you let the patient participate in the program by growing for other patients.
More recently I have decided the project I want to collect data on, and the one I wanted to introduce in Nevada and we have the infrastructure to start, is working with patients who are using opiates. That’s a good, good study. Record those opiates they are using and the frequency that they are being used and simply collect data on to what extent cannabis is affecting that use and to be able to show that it reduces the need for opiates is very, very important and to what extent. That’s a study I would like to formally start.
They make California look like ‘oh please.’ I love the way the patient is handled in Nevada. There are big LED signs with information and educational seminars and brochures and that’s not happening in California. The educational part of it excites me. The Nevada dispensaries have made it such a beautiful environment, we (California) have got some things to learn with regard to Nevada’s educational offerings. That’s missing here in many places, most I would say.
I see Nevada as the vortex of the industry in the US because of the steps it’s taken and what it’s doing right now. I believe out of Nevada will come the most amazing medicines. I see us getting back to pharmacology, you will be able to go to your pharmacy and get this cannabis medicine because what we are seeing now is that it is reemerging back into the pharmacology. That’s where ultimately it will go. It is hard to predict, but the good thing is that it’s back and it’s accepted. This wonderful, wonderful plant and what it can do in so many areas of our lives not just as far as medicine, but all that hemp can do including nutrition, and the products it can produce from fabric to hemp concrete blocks that are earthquake resistant. Imagine if we have hemp constructed materials for earthquakes in California. I am grateful I am here to see it before I exit the planet.