Doctor helping patients overcome hurdles to access medical cannabis

Local News

A local doctor has become the sole resource for some patients wanting to qualify for the medical cannabis registry.

Dr. Mark Woods told Local 4 News it’s often a hurdle for patients to find physicians who are certified with either the Iowa or Illinois medical cannabis programs and will certify their condition to complete the registration.

The Star Flower Clinic and Wellness doctor told Local 4 News he knows there are many physicians hesitant about this still relatively new move.

“All physicians want what’s best for their patient,” said Dr. Mark Woods. “There are hurdles for them to be able to do that [certify patients]. A big hurdle is that a lot of providers work for bigger groups and hospitals that will not allow their providers to certify patients.”

And Dr. Woods said he shared in some of that skepticism until seeing the results after legalization.

Dr. Woods said, “Several states that have allowed medical cannabis and now there’s 11 states that allow recreational cannabis, so it’s an evolution of my thinking and now I see it as an option for treatment for a lot of conditions.”

Dr. Woods said part of it might be education about cannabis or the provider they work for, but is seeing a change as more patients are seeking medical cannabis.

Dr. Woods said, “We have many physicians who cannot certify their own patients for medical cannabis but refer patients to us for that very options.”

Patients will come to the Star Flower Clinic and Wellness office Dr. Woods works out of from placed like Rockford and Peoria in Illinois and Cedar Rapids and Waterloo.

“In 2017 there were over 70,000 deaths in the United States of America, yet they won’t allow their providers to certify for medical cannabis, which in and of itself I’d think you’d be hard pressed to find that it’s been associated with few, if any deaths,” said Dr. Woods.

Star Flower Clinic is the only clinic in northwest Illinois that specifically completes the exam to determine if patients do or don’t have a qualifying condition.

Illinois has a list of more than 40 qualifying conditions while in Iowa, it’s about 10.

Dr. Woods said, “On average, 12 to 15 patients a day.”

At Star Flower Clinic, staff here said they can attest to the benefits.

Star Flower Clinic and Wellness Cannabis Consultant and Officer Manager Renee Applebey said, “When I used it myself, I realized that it helped not only me manage my pain. It helped me sleep and it also brought me in a good mood.”

It was a week in Colorado, Renee Applebey said she didn’t just learn but felt the benefits of medical cannabis to address her conditions like chronic pain. That’s why for her it’s important to have doctors on this journey.

“The industry is only going up from here so we need people who understand and willing to listen,” said Applebey.

As Cannabis Consultant and Officer Manager at Star Flower Clinic and Wellness, her experience is one she shares with patients seeking relief. It’s because many patients that seek Star Flower Clinic’s help have made their way through the standard treatment options or experimental trials.

Applebey said, “Went through every other treatment and all the other options and seeing that something finally works for them is remarkable.”

Renee helps to guide those seeking treatment when they come to see Dr. Woods by providing what she’s learned from treatments with medical cannabis.

“I have patients that are children whose parents are so thankful for us,” said Applebey. “I have caregivers of patients with Parkinson’s and cancer that went through every other option and now they’re finally seeing that their patient is getting healed and their life is changing.”

Dr. Woods works one or two days a week at Star Flower Clinic since October 2018, while still managing a family practice in Morrison.

Dr. Woods said, “Doesn’t work for everybody but in those patients that it does work for, it can work very well.”

Dr. Woods and Renee said the primary goal is for patients to feel well.

Applebey said, “They’re able to get their life back and do normal activities, and a lot of us take that for granted, but a lot of people just want to feel well again.”

Part of the impact has also been decreasing the reliance on pharmaceutical drugs.

“I see more benefit than not, for any number of conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I’ve seen people’s lives turn completely around because of the medical cannabis,” said Dr. Woods.

Dr. Woods and Renee said they support Illinois’s move to legalize recreation cannabis especially for patients who might not have a qualifying condition. Renee said she looks at it as over-the-counter cannabis in that way.

There’s also a bill on Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s desk that would make the medical cannabis program permanent. It is currently set to expire in 2020.

“I think the fact that they’re willing to make the medical cannabis pilot program permanent testifies that it works,” Dr. Woods said. “Patients are finding a benefit.”

Plus it adds 11 more qualifying conditions including chronic pain and autism.

For Renee, there is still room to grow what the medical cannabis program in Illinois provide.

“Illinois, I do think they are heading in the right direction,” said Applebey. “We’re going to be able to grow here soon, medical patients only after January. They have recently made the dispensaries easier to change, so once he signs that bill, we’ll have it officially. Right now it takes 24-48 hours to switch a dispensary.”

She adds more dispensaries would also help with the price some patients face for cannabis.

Across the river, Renee said there’s a lot more opportunity, if allowed, for the state.

“They have a THC cap that’s low. It’s only 3 percent. Unfortunately, the governor just vetoed that bill so they will not be raising that cap,” said Applebey. “The intake methods, they only have three so it’s capsules, creams and tinctures, which is a little bit of a barrier for some patients.”

She added Iowa only has five dispensaries around the state.

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