More MS news articles for Feb 2002

Doctor Offers Relief Through Marijuana

February 5, 2002

When the medical marijuana network revealed the identity of Dr. Phillip Leveque, The Oregonian was on the phone the next day.

Leveque said, “They telephoned me and said, ‘Is it true you’ll give a medical marijuana card to anybody?’”

His answer was no.

Leveque was in Brookings Monday at the Best Western Beachfront Inn. His suite doubled as an office and examination room for some of the 130-plus patients seeking his help in obtaining a medical marijuana card for the relief of various illnesses.

Leveque pointed out that he does not issue the cards, the state does. He merely signs the applications for patients to submit to the state to receive a card.

“When Oregon passed the Medical Marijuana Law, they thought about 500 people would apply for cards in Oregon,” said Leveque. “Now 3,000 people have cards, and I’ve got about 500 to 1,000 people waiting to see me.”

A medical marijuana card is issued to individuals with certain medical conditions, allowing them to grow their own cannabis plants. Some of the conditions listed on the application are: cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia, severe pain, severe nausea, seizures and multiple sclerosis.

Leveque believes in the healing capabilities of marijuana. His information package states that studies have shown it can arrest glaucoma, relieve pain, help migraines and block epileptic seizures.

It helps people with HIV/AIDS to relieve stress and depression, eliminate nausea, reduce their pain and stimulate their appetite, he said.

“I know what pain is all about,” said Leveque, explaining the empathy he has for his patients. “I have no trouble signing their applications.”

Leveque said he underwent prostate surgery in 1991. During the procedure, he was given too much spinal anesthesia, burning a number of spinal nerves.

“I was on crutches for eight-and-a-half years,” he said. “I had to use crutches because I couldn’t place any weight on my feet. I was in the hospital 10 times, and there was nothing they could do for me. My feet burn constantly and my tailbone burns constantly.”

However, Leveque admits he does not use marijuana himself.

“Are you kidding?” he said. “If I get pulled over by a cop, and I’ve been using marijuana, he’d rub his little hands together and throw out my back.”

Leveque has been a professor of pharmacology and toxicology for 22 years. He taught in 10 different medical schools throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, and has schooled more than 2,000 physicians.

He has appeared in court on poison cases as an expert forensic toxicologist and claims to have prevailed in 80 percent of those cases.

The doctor now takes his show on the road, setting up exam rooms in hotel suites.

“For a lot of my patients, it is impossible to get them to see me,” he said. “So I come to them.”

Brookings resident Robert Walker, also known as “Brother Bob,” learned about Leveque through the internet two-and-a-half years ago. Walker works with the Southern Oregon Medical Marijuana Network, a nonprofit organization. Their business card reads: “Helping those who need the healing herb secure their status in Southern Oregon.”

“We have no reason to be treated any different than anyone else,” Walker said. He describes Leveque as a “total saving grace.”

Leveque gives his patients a physical exam and looks over their medical records to determine their eligibility for the medical marijuana card program. He admits there are downfalls to the service he offers.

Last spring, he discovered people were forging his name on applications. “They were selling the applications for $300 a piece,” Leveque said. “And they didn’t even spell my name right. They spelled it with a g instead of a q. Fortunately they were caught and found guilty; they wrecked the system for everybody else.”

Aside from that, during the past six months, the Board of Medical Examiners demanded he submit to a complete physical and psychological exam, “to show I’m competent to practice medicine.”

The doctor again reiterates his motivation is to help his patients who suffer chronic pain, and laments the high price of prescription drugs.

“During my training as a pharmacologist, I was taught that cannabis is strictly a euphoriant. I had no idea (at the time) it would be useful for so many conditions. It is truly a miracle drug. Besides, why should a person have to pay $150 for prescription drugs when they can grow these plants themselves?”

Although Leveque is well aware that marijuana use for the treatment of pain is still highly controversial, he says “This is my moral obligation as a physician to help patients. That’s what I’m supposed to do, and that’s what I do.”

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