Symposium Highlights Medical Marijuana as V.I. Starting Date Nears

From left,speaker and vendor Sierra Riddle chats with Dr. Rachel Knox, Holland Redfield, Dr. Janice Knox and Dr. Jessica Knox at the Cannaval. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)
From left,speaker and vendor Sierra Riddle chats with Dr. Rachel Knox, Holland Redfield, Dr. Janice Knox and Dr. Jessica Knox at the Cannaval. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)
Clayton Thomas displays one of his T-shirts for sale. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)
Clayton Thomas displays one of his T-shirts for sale. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)

The use of cannabis in conjunction with traditional medicine gives patients a better outcome than traditional medicine alone, according to doctors speaking Saturday at a St. Croix symposium on medical marijuana.

Cannaval was a day-long event that took place at St. Croix Educational Complex. It was organized by Agriculture commissioner, former senator and longtime cannabis advocate Positive Nelson, who had been the driving force behind approval of the medical marijuana law.

“There’s a higher rate of success with cannabis than with traditional (cancer) therapy,” Dr. Janice Knox, told the Source at Saturday’s cannabis symposium. Combining cannabis and radiation, chemotherapy and other therapies increases the cure rate even more, she added.

Knox was part of a Cannaval panel discussion on the medical aspects of cannabis. The panel included her two daughters, who also are physicians involved in treating illnesses and ailments with medical marijuana.

Dr. Janice Knox became a cannabis physician after working as an anesthesiologist for 35 years. She and her husband, also a physician in the industry, founded the American Cannabinoid Clinics in 2014. Both daughters and a son, who is an attorney, work for the clinics, now in 19 states.

Like their mother, Dr. Jessica Knox and Dr. Rachel Knox practiced traditional medicine at the beginning of their careers. Dr. Jessica worked in telemedicine and said it would work well in the Virgin Islands in prescribing medical cannabis – local physicians are telecommunicating more, she said. Now she works with individuals and families. Using her business degree she is chief executive officer of the clinics.

“The education piece is what I enjoy most,” Dr. Jessica said.

One of several vendors sells hemp products at Cannaval. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)
One of several vendors sells hemp products at Cannaval. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)

Dr. Rachel Knox went to medical school at Tufts University with her sister, and practiced family medicine at the beginning of her professional career. The sisters learned about medical marijuana from their parents and by studying on their own. Dr. Rachel fell out of love with traditional medicine and joined one of the family’s clinics in Portland, Oregon.

“Traditional medicine was not aligned with me ethically or morally,” Dr. Rachel said. “I wanted to help improve life styles. The patient drives the system, not the doctor.”

Dr. Janice said the three of them travel a lot now, speaking to groups whose states are trying to or have legalized cannabis. They also work with physicians to guide their learning all of the treatments.

“If the doctor doesn’t tell you about spirituality, he’s not telling you everything,” she said.

Nelson, who as a senator sponsored the legislation that eventually was signed into law, talked about the bill, outlined some of the licensing fees and said the governing board and regulations may be in place as early as October. The governor has sent a list of prospective board members to the Legislature, according to Nelson, and when the Rules and Judiciary committee and the full senate confirms the list, the rules and regulations can be put in place.

“We just need to configure the regulations to our purpose,” and then begin licensing vendors, Nelson told the Source.

A member of the audience asked the panel what physicians should do to prepare for being asked to prescribe cannabis. The Knox relatives agreed that they should learn all they can about the endocannabanoid system and its physiology. Dr. Janice Knox explained that the system, discovered in the 1990’s, governs all other systems, such as digestive, nervous and immune, in animals and people.

Sierra Riddle was also a member of the panel. When her seven-year-old son was three, he was diagnosed with cancer. She wanted to treat him with cannabis instead of chemotherapy and opiates that made him very ill. The only option Riddle had was to move to Colorado to have access to the substance. She eventually treated him with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol – the cannabis ingredient that makes users high) and CBD (cannabidiol – the non psychoactive ingredient). Her son is healthy now, and she has formed a successful business helping others with CBD products.

The panel agreed that by adjusting dosages of CBD, patients can overcome the psychoactive effects of THC.

Riddle said some CBD products work better than THC and that THC has a “therapeutic effect of its own.” The panel also pointed out that dosages need to be adjusted – cannabis profiles – for the best result. Sometimes the dosage needs to be increased if the patient develops a tolerance.

Other panels presented during the event included a discussion on starting a cannabis business, hemp, and planting and making products. The knowledge shared by the panelists was vast although the audience was small – especially considering the territory is about to embark on the medical cannabis journey.

Some of the recommendations shared by panel members – most work in the industry and traveled to St. Croix for the symposium – included:

– Dr. Rachel Knox recommended people get involved on the ground floor to participate in what is projected to be a trillion dollar industry and have a say in how the community is affected.
– Dr. Monica Tang, the first and only cannabis pharmacist, recommended advocacy, forming organizations and learning the terminology because “compliance and audits are coming down the road.”

Participants also recommended making sure taxes on the products are returned to the community to improve the social and economic health of the territory.

Many of those who attended Cannaval were in agriculture and others seemed to know a fair amount about the plant. Comments and questions indicated that the speakers’ knowledge was above average.

“I was extremely impressed with the caliber of speakers. The day was packed full of valuable knowledge. It is apparent that the commissioner has worked very hard to ensure that legalization of medical cannabis has a solid foundation,” said Jill Cherubin, a St. Croix Realtor.

Business manager Patricia King was only able to attend one segment, called Soil and Oil. She was also impressed with the information provided.

“I thought the panel was thought provoking. I feel inspired to help get legislation in place to accommodate users and growers to seek safety and scientific testing results,” she said.

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