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HERNANDO AND CITRUS COUNTY
One Person at a Time
by Keith B Stolte, MD
Stolte Eye Center
I recently had the honor of being a speaker at Pasco-Hernando State College Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch for its Medical Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Awareness Symposium. There were well over 150 people there eager for information. It gave me pause to think about how far we have come in a relatively short period of time.
When I first started offering Medical Marijuana in my practice, I might as well have been wearing a scarlet letter on my lab coat. I was fearful that my long-term patients would reject the idea and go elsewhere and what would this do to my thriving practice? People who would pass by our office were quite vocal over their displeasure of our even having the word “marijuana” posted in our lobby. Other physicians, even some referral sources, expressed concerned and pulled away from communication with me. I am a renegade. All I want to do is care for patients. I am in this for the long haul. So I am holding strong.
We started having free seminars in my office. We still do every month. Come to one. We talk about marijuana, the rules, the cost, what conditions are covered. Our first seminars had 15 or so people and we were so excited for that. I think I quietly thought no one would come. Every month, the seminars have grown exponentially. We now cap our total each month at 65 people. We simply don’t have enough chairs or room.
I remember the Hernando Medical Association having its first physicians’ meeting discussing medical marijuana. That was probably March or April. They brought in a guest speaker and, to say the least, he was from the far left and very anti-marijuana. They have had two more speakers since that one. Each has taken long strides towards acceptance, the last with praise and excitement. Attending these meetings are local physicians, Interns and residents. The HMA is teaching them the benefits of Medical Marijuana. One day, these interns and residents may be physicians in our community, well-educated physicians.
All the reporters and cameras at the symposium I attended brought a smile to my heart. Opinions are changing, people are being healed. What an amazing plant! How sad it was that we were all given such false information in our upbringing and training about marijuana. But that is behind us now.
My favorite patient story this week is a patient names “Angela,” who came to us with her husband. She was in a severe car accident years ago and has been on opiates ever since. Now, the side effects of the opiates are destroying her organs. She wanted off the opiates. She began our Medical Marijuana program in June. In her follow-up visit this week, she told me her pain management doctor has her completely off the opiates. Her husband is thrilled. He “has his wife back.” She has great control of the pain with no harmful side effects. The best part of this is the fact that her pain doctor referred her, and other patients like her, to our practice for this medication. Thank you to that pain doctor for caring enough to have his patients exit off opiates. Marijuana is an exit drug, not a gateway drug. I have often said I believe marijuana is the answer for the opiate crisis.
Keith Stolte, MD