Local doctor details marijuana initiatives

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Roark: ‘We can’t keep treating patients with the medicines that are killing them’

Dr. Lisa Roark, owner of Roark Family and Medical Spa, supports medical marijuana, as she wants safer and more effective ways to treat certain medical conditions.

Roark

One of the ways to do that, she said, is by passing one of the three medical marijuana initiatives on the Nov. 4 ballot — but only one.

“We can’t keep treating patients with the medicines that are killing them,” Roark said. “We have to have options, because we can’t continue to give patients narcotics.”

As a physician, Roark said she is realizing that the medication that is available is not always safe, and the opioid epidemic is skyrocketing.

“We have a natural substance that has been proven to work, and it seems ridiculous that we aren’t utilizing that to treat medical problems,” Roark said. “A salve made from marijuana can take care of someones arthritis pain without causing side effects and risks of the current medications they are taking.”

Roark said it is also important to realize how much medical marijuana will be regulated. The Health Department will be regulating it down to the seed.

“There is a monitoring program that will be utilized that from the time the seed is put into the soil it has a barcode.” Roark said. “As a cultivator you would have to be able to prove every step of the way that you are following regulations or you will be shut down.”

According to Roark, cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which Roark Family Health and Medical Spa currently carries, comes from a hemp plant. Hemp has very low to no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in marijuana that causes a “high.” CBD is legal in all 50 states, and people don’t have to have a prescription to purchase any of the CBD products in her clinic.

If a medical marijuana initiative passes, the THC would be in the plant in monitored levels to treat a variety of conditions.

“I do think there is enough support in the state to push one of the initiatives through,” Roark said. “However, this has never happened before, where a state has had three medical cannabis ballot issues at the same time.”

Roark said her concern is that having three different initiatives may confuse people. On the ballot are Amendment 2, Amendment 3 and Proposition C.

“I’m worried people will say, ‘I vote yes for medical marijuana,’ and they vote yes on all three initiatives,” Roark said. “That would completely cancel out their vote. If both amendments pass, it will be a war in the courts, and we will not see medical marijuana for a very long time in Missouri.”

Roark said she wants the public to know the difference between all the initiatives when they vote.

Proposition C would legalize marijuana for medical purposes with the lowest tax rate of the three initiatives, and will prohibit home cultivation. Tax revenue would be distributed to veterans’ services, drug treatment, education and law enforcement. Proposition C would be regulated by Missouri Department of Senior Services and Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.

“Proposition C is a good option and has a similar qualifying conditions list as Amendment 2, but when pinned against an amendment, the amendments override the proposition,” Roark said. “Also, with Proposition C, the government will have the freedom to make alterations. However, with an amendment, we the people have voted make this change in our laws, and the government can’t make changes to it unless we the people vote to change it.”

Amendment 3 is Dr. Brad Bradshaw’s self-funded and self-written amendment. Bradshaw, Springfield-area attorney and physician, proposed Amendment 3, which has the highest tax rate of the three initiatives. The tax revenue created would go into a new incurable disease research center. According to Amendment 3, Bradshaw would preside over the research center, as well as choose a board led by himself. Bradshaw also opposes home cultivation.

“The problem with Amendment 3 is that Dr. Bradshaw will sit on the board with a committee that he chooses, and he will chose who gets the medical marijuana licenses,” Roark said. “Also, should the state of Missouri fund all the cancer research for the entire country?”

Amendment 2 allows home cultivation, tax revenue would be given to healthcare services, job training, housing assistance and other services for Missouri veterans. Amendment 2 would be regulated by the existing Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

“With Amendment 2, we fund the Missouri veterans,” Roark said. “Here is a problem that we know we have in Missouri — [funding for veteran healthcare]. We know that’s an issue, and our taxes should go to those Missouri veterans.”

Roark said the reason she supports Amendment 2 is because it gives patients and doctors the most control over their healthcare.

“To me, it makes sense that the Department of Health, which is already regulating our narcotic monitoring programs, would be the one to oversee a medical marijuana program,” Roark said. “Also, I really like that the list of qualifying conditions on Amendment 2 is very long, and last on that list is another medical condition that a licensed physician determines would be appropriate for medical marijuana use. It makes it to where you don’t have to try to get another condition qualified.”

If Amendment 2 passes, Roark plans to open a dispensary.

“It would not be part of Roark Health, but a completely different LLC with completely different employees,” Roark said. “I do plan to apply for that license, and I may or may not get it. I have already scheduled with the city council to present my plan, a week after the election, to open a dispensary in Cassville. However, if Amendment 2 doesn’t pass, I will not go through with it.”

Roark said with direct primary care, which is what the Roark clinic is, she has a full medication dispensary onsite. So she knows how to prescribe medications, dispense medications and understands the process of how to regulate it. Also, if Amendment 2 does not pass and she doesn’t open a dispensary, Roark said she will still write medical marijuana cards as a physician.

“For me, the biggest thing is I want to purchase from a local source. There are companies in Shell Knob and Sarcoxie that would be applying for cultivation licenses,” Roark said. “I want a relationship with the person I would be purchasing product from. Also, I don’t want any pesticides or additives. The government will already be testing for those things, so I don’t see that being a problem.”

Roark said that for the local economy, passing Amendment 2 will create tax revenue with sales tax, and it will create more businesses with employees.

“It would increase jobs and sales tax revenue, and that sales tax goes right back into our community,” Roark said. “The dispensary or cultivation centers will have to have security and construction expenditures, in addition to the employees of the centers.”

If Amendment 2 passes on Nov. 6, the law would go into effect 30 days after that. Then, the Department of Health and Senior Services would have 180 days to make applications available.

“That gives people planning on applying for a licenses time to get their affairs in order,” Roark said. “If you do get the license, you will still be waiting for the cultivation centers to get their licenses and grow their products. Realistically, we are looking at the end of 2019 to the beginning of 2020 before patients would actually have product in Missouri.”

To utilize medical marijuana, a patient would have to have a medical marijuana card.

According to Roark, depending on which initiative passes, a patient would go to a physician, and if the physician said that the patient qualifies for a medical marijuana card, the patient would fill out a card and mail it to the state. The state would then send them a card that gives the patient the ability to purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary.

Roark said medical marijuana has varying levels of THC, and would still have the CBD. Some people would require higher levels of THC depending on their condition, and some people would just need a little of the THC, along with the CBD, to get the effect that they need.

Roark said the physician wouldn’t need to carry any special licensing to prescribe medical marijuana.

“We know that cannabinoids help with seizure disorders, chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, Crohn’s disease, hyperactivity and is also a natural anti-inflammatory,” Roark said.

Roark said in a marijuana plant, there are there are two different components: the cannabinoids, which are the relaxing portion of the plant that decrease hunger, decrease anxiety and are a pain reliever, then the THC, which in recreational use, people look for high levels because THC causes a “high.”

“The way the plant is structured, the cannabinoids are supposed to level out the THC,” Roark said. “When medical marijuana is regulated and patients go into a dispensary, patients with different conditions will get different doses of CBD and THC to help with their needs.”

According to Roark, another benefit of medical marijuana for conditions like anxiety and depression is that currently, doctors use selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat those conditions.

“Those medications basically decrease how fast the serotonin is sucked up in our brains,” Roark said. “Although that may work for some people, SSRIs don’t increase the production of serotonin, but marijuana does. Medical marijuana can literally fix the problem by actually making our brains make more serotonin.”

Roark said she thinks there is always a risk for the federal government to come in and interfere with state programs, but realistically, she is not concerned.

“I don’t think it is in the federal government’s best interest to interfere with state programs,” Roark said. “They haven’t so far. I think if they wanted to cause issues they would have already done so in California and Colorado, where marijuana is recreationally legal.”

Roark said recreation and medical marijuana use are completely different, and that is something she wants to make people aware of.

“Medical marijuana really is a medicine,” she said. “It can be in the form of pills, patches and infused food. It’s not just smoking marijuana. I am not an advocate for smoking ever, including marijuana. Medical marijuana is regulated even more so than narcotics. I think when people realize how regulated it is, and that we aren’t voting for recreational marijuana, they will become more comfortable.”

The initiatives on the ballot are all for medical use, not recreational use. Marijuana would not be legal in public places.

“I think trying to explain to people what conditions can be treated, and the different forms that you can take it in will help people realize medical marijuana isn’t a bad thing,” Roark said. “Know the differences between all three initiatives, if you agree or not, know what you are voting on and do not vote yes on all. Make your vote count, and be educated.”

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