I was a pot doctor: naturopaths blowing smoke with medical marijuana

Naturopaths are pushing medical marijuana and finding troubleI used to be a pot doctor. That is, I certified patients to use medical marijuana (MMJ) when I practiced as a licensed naturopath in Washington and Arizona.

This is not unusual for naturopaths. My former colleagues who had family-oriented practices certified patients to use MMJ in every naturopathic clinic where I worked. There are also MMJ mills that cater to large volumes of patients who actively seek out MMJ certifications. In Seattle and Tucson, I held part-time jobs at such MMJ mills.

Like most other naturopaths, I entered the MMJ business for the money. The average naturopathic graduate has as much debt as a medical school graduate but has poor job prospects. Mainstream medical positions are rarely available to naturopaths and for good reason—we are not trained in medicine, but in a pseudoscientific belief system that resembles medical school only on the surface. The earnings from MMJ jobs provide a much-needed boost to naturopaths struggling to make ends meet.

Many naturopaths in Washington and Arizona rely on income from MMJ authorizations. For them, pushing pot is a lucrative calling but not one without legal and ethical problems.


Becoming a pot doctor

My first job authorizing MMJ was at a well-known pot clinic in Seattle. I had already been working for about a year at a naturopathic family practice in what was considered a “naturopathic residency.” I made an annual salary of $29,000 without benefits. I needed extra income to pay student loan bills from attending Bastyr University. At $39,000 per year, tuition at Bastyr costs nearly the same as the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine—a top medical program. First-year residents at Mayo earn $53,270 with benefits.

I found the job on Craigslist. The ad sought naturopaths for part-time work certifying MMJ and promised good money. I was immediately hired. My plan was to work there for six months, until I could find a higher paying position as a primary care provider. Little did I realize that I would end up working at two other MMJ mills up until I finally left my naturopathic career.

I started in a new corporate building in downtown Seattle. The space was larger than necessary, complete with a kitchen and conference room. The pot clinics I had seen were located in sketchy parts of town and operated out of run-down offices. Many had barred windows, security doors, and bodyguards.

The MMJ business attracts a clientele from every walk of life, including drug-seekers and those with criminal records. As anyone would surmise, patients expected a guaranteed authorization from MMJ mills, especially by naturopaths. But sometimes disappointment would turn threatening. After being denied authorizations, some dissatisfied patients had to be escorted out of the clinic by security. I became comfortable saying, “Please leave, or I will call the police.”

This would be the safest MMJ job I held.

‘Drug dealing under the guise of medical care’

My job at the pot clinic grew on me. I was exposed to eclectic patients with an assortment of medical conditions. Many of the patients had been diagnosed with diseases that I had not been exposed to in my naturopathic clinical training at Bastyr. The job was immediately more interesting than working in naturopathic “primary care,” which centered around generalized lifestyle advice and questionable treatments for the worried well. Plus, I made great money, and the atmosphere was laid back.

But I was also embarrassed to be a pot doctor. I knew I was working in a grey zone.

Marijuana is still federally illegal and classified as a Schedule I substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), which considers it to be a highly addictive drug without any medical value. The arguably outdated federal status of marijuana may change over the coming years as more states legalize the drug and as medical research continues.

I kept my job a secret from coworkers, family, and friends. When I finally told a naturopath and friend, her reply surprised me: “Oh yea, I work at a pot clinic on the weekends. The money is awesome!” She also had crushing student loan debt but from Southwest College for Natural Medicine. (This year, tuition there is $35,354.)

When I told my boss at the naturopathic family clinic about my second job, her response was unexpected: “We authorize MMJ here too!”

She kept this quiet by not advertising MMJ. She described it as providing authorizations to those uncomfortable visiting a pot clinic.

Like the vast majority of alternative therapies that naturopaths provide for which good evidence is lacking, MMJ is not much different. David Gorski has characterized MMJ as the “new, popular herbalism of the moment.” I refer you to his article for a breakdown of the evidence.

But as Ed Gogek, an addiction psychiatrist in Prescott, Arizona, said in 2015, “What’s going on is drug dealing under the guise of medical care.”

Naturopaths are pushing pot under the guise of medical care


Need a marijuana card but don’t qualify?

[inlinetweet prefix=”@NaturoDiaries:” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Getting an MMJ authorization from a naturopath is easy.[/inlinetweet] Here’s how it worked:

Prior to a visit, patients were required to show medical records that document a qualifying diagnosis. Criteria vary between states, but by and large include cancer, glaucoma, PTSD, spasms, nausea, multiple sclerosis, and severe (including chronic) pain.

If a patient’s records did not document a qualifying condition, the receptionist would call the patient to explain that an MMJ authorization could not be provided . . . yet. The receptionist then frequently directed patients to a doctor or chiropractor who could put together medical records for a qualifying diagnosis. These providers would just feed keywords and symptom descriptions to patients who gladly accepted their new diagnoses.

Patients would then come back to the pot clinic for an appointment to receive an MMJ card. Over just a short amount of time, I remember picking up on similarities in how patients from one to the next described their qualifying conditions. As long as everything was documented and in order, an authorization was granted.

Patients would pay $150 for a first time MMJ authorization, and there was a cheaper rate for renewals. They could pay more to have the clinic process state-required paperwork and also refer friends for a discount. My services consisted of a brief consultation and medical exam. I spent most of the visit writing notes, reviewing records, and discussing risks of using marijuana. And in good naturopathic spirit, I made general recommendations to eat better and exercise more. The whole process took as little as 15 minutes.

I saw a number of individuals who used marijuana for appropriate medical reasons. Cancer patients commonly used it for pain management, nausea relief, and weight gain. I remember patients with debilitating illnesses, like multiple sclerosis, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS, that claimed to benefit from MMJ.

Many others did not medically need marijuana. They probably didn’t even have the conditions newly added to their records. Perhaps the most common of these was chronic pain. Generally, young men wanted MMJ for pain, whereas young women complained of nausea and stomach cramping. I believe most patients embellished their symptoms with vocabulary from the MMJ laws or from those providers who filled in their medical histories.

The practice was sometimes tied to doctors who pushed pain pills.

A colleague in Tucson, for example, was regularly referred business from a medical doctor who would not authorize MMJ. He had a problem with his residency and ended up in prescription pain management. She would send patients back his way to get together the annual paperwork for a qualifying diagnosis. This is different than referring out to a specialist for an accurate diagnosis or complex care. It’s a way to obtain two different drugs under the guise of medical care.

The MMJ industry attracts illegal activity

Naturopaths are permitted to recommend medical marijuana in three states: Arizona, Washington, and, as of 2016, Vermont.

States that allow MMJ have well-defined rules to ensure medical providers uphold “best practices” for recommending it. The rules require medical providers to review records, establish care, document the visit, sign a medical marijuana certificate, and check for evidence of prescription drug abuse on a controlled substance database.

There have been numerous news stories over the years documenting misconduct by naturopaths working in pot clinics in Washington and Arizona. Jonathon Martin’s 2011 Seattle Times article, “No medical records? No problem. Got my pot card at Hempfest” prompted a multi-year investigation by the Washington Department of Health (DOH) into many naturopaths doling out MMJ authorizations. Undercover patients who did not meet the state’s qualifications for MMJ were sent into pot clinics and naturopathic offices. Many naturopaths took the bait.

In 2012, Washington naturopath Yuel Luncheon Boyce lost his license for two years after giving pot-laced treats to three undercover cops posing as MMJ patients after they paid Boyce cash for his services. Boyce and I used to work for the same MMJ clinic in Washington (but in a different office location). It was not uncommon for naturopaths at our clinics to dispense marijuana treats as “free gifts” to patients. One smoked pot during his breaks between patient visits. I was told patients could smell the weed from the waiting room.

I was glad to leave this pot clinic behind. Its up-scale façade did little to disguise the illegal activities that took place within. I moved to Tucson where I was hired at a pot clinic called Shop420. I would come to find out, the dingy appearance of this MMJ mill reflected the type of behavior that went on behind closed doors.

The clinic was located on a side alley off Fourth Avenue in downtown Tucson. I distinctly remember being confused about how to enter the clinic because it was surrounded by boarded-up doors and abandoned storage units.

During my interview, I met with Eric Salazar, the shop’s owner. He was very nice and professional yet was also seemingly immersed in the dilapidated setting of the clinic. He offered me a job and gave me an advance so I could apply for a DEA number. Unlike in Washington, I was required to be registered with the DEA to authorize MMJ in Arizona. The registration cost about $700.

This clinic made me uneasy. I had found a concerning news story about Shop420 from the previous year. During a police raid of Shop420, six people, including Salazar, were arrested. They were charged with conspiring to sell “more than two pounds of marijuana” and engagement in racketeering. Two employees were also charged with the sale of marijuana, and one of these men was carrying a gun despite being a “prohibited weapons possessor.”

After reading the story I spoke with a medical doctor who worked part-time at Shop420. She was a single mom. She told me that she made so much money working at Shop420 that she didn’t need another job and could stay home with her kids. She tried to reassure me that the raid was “no big deal.” I was not convinced. I worked two or three shifts to pay off the $700 debt and then sent Salazar an email with my notice of leave. I never went near the clinic again.

I found another part-time job in Tucson at a pot clinic run by two cheery ladies. They paid me an hourly wage that was significantly less than what I would have made at Shop420. But I trusted them, and they proved to be good employers. I would have considered this clinic to be the one where I felt the safest, but I was in a state where it was legal and common to carry concealed weapons. Patients were often disturbed and mentally ill. The clinic owner always carried her handgun. I worked shifts there for just under a year, until leaving naturopathy for good.

Medical marijuana in Arizona: a naturopathic stronghold

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) publishes annual reports on medical marijuana certifications. A report covering July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015 with demographic data about MMJ users and the practitioners authorizing them shows a clear trend: naturopaths are driving the state’s MMJ industry. The ADHS reports that during this period, a total of 77,639 medical marijuana authorizations were provided to patients, of which naturopaths provided 87% that year.

Table 1 below summarizes the ADHS 2015 data on MMJ authorizations by type of provider, including the number of active licenses, number and percent of those recommended MMJ at least once, average number of and overall percentage of MMJ authorizations provider. (Yes, there are “homeopathic medical doctors” in Arizona.)

Medical marijauna authorizations by practitioner in Arizona (2015)
References: 1. 2014 report; 2. 2015 report

The number of MMJ authorizations by naturopaths over the past four years has been rapidly growing. In 2012, naturopaths certified 18,067 patients, at about 225 authorizations per naturopath (of those who provided at least one authorization). Last year, naturopaths certified over 67,000 patients, at about 650 authorizations per MMJ-authorizing naturopath. With a price of $150 per patient at that rate, a single naturopath could bring in close to $100,000 (about two patients per day). Table 2 below summarizes the increasing number of MMJ authorizations provided by naturopaths from 2012-2015.

Medical marijuana authorizatins by naturopaths in Arizona (2012-2015)
References: 1. 2012 report;  2. 2013 report; 3. 2014 report;  4. 2015 report

Some naturopaths are taking this earning potential to the extreme. Of the naturopaths who gave out at least one MMJ certification in Arizona in 2015, 23 of them accounted for  nearly 50,000 MMJ authorizations. Excluding weekends, such a workload amounts to an average of only eight MMJ patients per day with an annual revenue of about $326,000. This is about right for paying off naturopathic student loan debt.

The graphs below show this explosion of MMJ authorizations by naturopaths in comparison to other providers.


The trend is clear. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Naturopaths in Arizona are driving the MMJ industry and not always following the rules.[/inlinetweet]

Naturopaths and medical marijuana under fire

A 2014 Auditor’s General report of the Arizona naturopathic board found that most of the state’s naturopaths consistently failed to comply with the law when authorizing marijuana. I’ve seen these failures first-hand.

A former colleague of mine was brought before the Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board for a formal interview related to discrepancies found in the records regarding her MMJ certifications. She was one of many Arizona naturopaths in 2015 that was disciplined for not complying with MMJ regulations while the number MMJ authorizations soared.

Arizona lawmakers passed new legislation in 2015 to reign in naturopaths by requiring them to provide medical evidence that supports a qualifying diagnosis for MMJ, sign a certificate, and check the patient’s profile on the state’s substance prescription monitoring database. These practices were previously specified in existing MMJ laws, but it seems naturopaths had ignored them, so lawmakers sent a direct message.

Naturopath Elaine Burns, director for Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Center, told ABC15 that these new rules made both the MMJ industry and “naturopathic physicians [sic] look bad.” It’s not the laws that tarnish naturopaths. It’s their lackadaisical authorizing of MMJ that makes them look bad.

At least one lawmaker took specific aim at alternative medicine providers in Arizona. State representative Jay Lawrence introduced bill HCR 2019 to prevent licensed naturopaths and homeopaths from authorizing MMJ. The bill quickly died. A vocal group of natural health crusaders pestered Lawrence with hundreds of phone calls. Naturopaths must have felt relieved.

Conclusion: naturopaths and pot-driven false marketing

Marijuana is not a miracle drug. Like detoxification diets and intravenous vitamin injections, medical marijuana is largely an alternative health gimmick. There is a moderate amount of evidence to suggest MMJ is possibly effective for some conditions, such as chronic pain and reducing nausea. MMJ is a not the “natural” cure-all drug contrary to what naturopaths and MMJ zealots claim. Take a look at these screenshots for examples of how MMJ is pitched to potential customers:

Screen shot from Green Wellness, a chain of MMJ mills in Washington. Green Wellness also offers naturopathic care to patients.
Screenshot of the website for naturopath Neil McKinney who promotes marijuana as a naturopathic treatment for cancer. (Canadian naturopaths cannot authorize MMJ.)

But it is an herb, after all. For most naturopaths in practice, the choice to authorize MMJ is easy. But I find it odd that marijuana was not covered in my botanical medicine courses at Bastyr University. For being a well known “herbal drug,” one would expect that naturopathic students would study marijuana in school. This omission speaks to the fact that naturopathic education does not even teach its own specialties comprehensively, let alone evidence-based medicine.

Naturopaths receive very little real medical training in school. I received just a few hundred of hours in clinical training at Bastyr University. Medical doctors and doctors of osteopathic medicine receive tens of thousands of hours of training in their chosen specialty after getting thousands of hours in medical school.

I also received less education in pharmacology than physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Nevertheless, naturopaths are allowed to write drug prescriptions in Arizona and Washington. And despite not being formally trained to counsel patients on marijuana use or on the evidence for it, naturopaths have dominated the MMJ industry since these states passed laws allowing them to authorize patients.

Naturopathic students are borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal loan money for their training. After graduation, career prospects are grim, and incomes are low. It seems that naturopaths have little choice but to push pot at scales and with health claims that far exceed ethical sense.

Image credits: 1) Thomas Hawk. Some rights reserved; 2) Chuck Grimmett. Some rights reserved; Tables and graphs produced by Britt Hermes. All rights reserved.

33 Replies to “I was a pot doctor: naturopaths blowing smoke with medical marijuana

  1. Your description of the pot houses reminds me of my biggest problem with the “Legalize Hemp” movement – while rolling out all these great industrial benefits of hemp, the face of the movement are total stoners like Woody Harrelson. Oh right, Woody, we all know that you big goal here is to revolutionize the rope industry and to allow a market for non-fancy handbags.

    Or maybe it’s just that you are a major pothead and you are just trying to backdoor your way into legalizing pot.

    I’m even supportive of legalize pot, but not supportive of disingenuous nonsense.

    These put houses you describe seem to be using MMJ the same way.

    1. I find myself in the same boat, where I have no issues with legalization, but also get tired of eyerolling at stoners insisting MMJ isn’t just a Trojan Horse being pushed because they simply want to get high…

      1. I’m find with legalization, same as alcohol, but again, not because either is harmless. It would simply allow for better regulation and therefore, possibly some harm reduction. I’m not a prude and I enjoy a (5.5 oz) glass of wine with dinner, but to simply legalize yet another substance and pretend it is “recreational” is highly euphemistic.

        1. How is it euphemistic? It sounds like straight talk to me. Don’t legalize it because it’s supposedly some kind of medical cure-all according to crap science, legalize because it is usually a relatively innocuous form of fun–recreation–for people. All drugs can be abused, of course, but that is a separate issue.

    2. This article sums up my thoughts on MMJ pretty succinctly.
      http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2338230

      Money quote: “In conclusion, if the states’ initiative to legalize medical marijuana is merely a veiled step toward allowing access to recreational
      marijuana, then the medical community should be left out of the
      process, and instead marijuana should be decriminalized. Conversely, if the goal is to make marijuana available for medical purposes, then it is unclear why the approval process should be different from that used for other medications.”

    3. Yeah, I agree. If I can go to the store and buy a sixpack because I am an adult and thus legally recognized as being capable of weighing the risks and benefits of recreational alcohol use and acting responsibly in accordance with them, I don’t see why anyone should have to the store and make up some awkward story that everyone present knows is bullshit to do the same damn thing with marijuana. I have no problem with pot-smoking, but lying is a thing that I think should be avoided when at all possible.

      1. I have a few problems with pot smoking. The damage to the lungs for one. Also, the assumption that pot use and alcohol use are the same thing is misguided I think. It’s not as if alcohol is harmless to begin with. I know an awful lot of people who claim to be “social” drinkers who definitely exceed the recommended consumption (one 5 oz glass of wine for example, or 1 oz spirits) on a regular basis.

        The pseudoscience of pot “benefits” far exceeds the evidence, and it seems naive to shrug it off as some innocent social pasttime–that would be tea at 4 pm. I don’t want my kids drunk and I don’t want them high.

        1. Allow me to reassure you. Here in WA, our laws forbid children (and some adults) under the age of 21 from buying pot, and every store cards you at the door.

          Everyone I know who uses pot has seen their alcohol consumption drop off, and this is visible in alcohol sales numbers in WA and CO. Largely this is because pot is easier on the body — no hangover, no missing work the next morning if you overdo it.

          Also, I agree with you on the dangers of inhaling combustion byproducts. You’ll be pleased to know that vaporization, tinctures, and edibles are extremely popular and MUCH easier to access post-legalization.

          Trust me, I was a teenager where pot was illegal and I’ve been an adult where it is legal. My pot consumption now is in all ways safer than it was when I was your kid’s age. Safer chemically, safer legally, safer in regulations on what is in the packaging. “Some guy’s apartment” has been replaced with “clean well-lit store with security cameras”.

          Parents should be in *favor* of pot legalization!

        2. A few things:

          1.) Correct, pot and alcohol use are not the same. Seems to me that alcohol is potentially much more dangerous. I’ve personally seen it destroy and end a lot more lives than pot-smoking and it’s a hell of a lot easier to kill yourself with alcohol. Smoking is certainly not good for your lungs but unless you are a constant smoker, there are probably worse things that most people routinely do to their bodies. And it would be difficult to impossible to smoke pot in a way that involves as much smoke inhalation as even relatively “casual” cigarette-smokers regularly subject themselves to.

          2.) Wait…so you think anyone who drinks more than a 5 oz glass of wine ever has to forfeit the title of “social drinker?” That is…harsh. Look, I am a musician who has spent a lot of time in social environments built around live music culture. I am no stranger to the phenomenon of people with seriously problematic drinking habits flying under the radar as “social drinkers” because they are relatively high-functioning people that manage to keep jobs, attend to their other adult responsibilities etc. I have seen stuff hit the fan more than once when they stop being able to do these things and/or they develop serious health problems and the depth of their problem is revealed to themselves and their friends. I know a few people who went through that process and got on the wagon that way but it took years of nobody really noticing or people dismissing their own concerns. So yeah, lots of people drink too much, I’ve seen it.

          But, wow, I have definitely exceeded a 5 oz. glass of wine (or it’s equivalent) in an evening on occasion–just this past week, actually, because I’m on freaking vacation–and I am certainly nothing more sinister than a social drinker. Hell, I have even been *gasp* drunk a few times! Sometimes that is fun! If it’s fun all the time, you should probably ask yourself some hard questions about your habits and lifestyle. But I’m not beating myself up too much here. Moderation in all things, including moderation, as my grandfather used to say. You don’t even want to know how much butter and sugar was in the cake I baked for a friend’s holiday party last week, which is certainly not terribly healthy. It was delicious and I’m not sorry. (And everyone else was quite pleased too!) If your standard for “problem drinker” is “someone who has a second glass of wine sometimes” than I can’t even imagine how much fretting you must do about people you know unless you only hang out with practicing Mormons. What can I say, most responsible, contributing members of society like to occasionally get a little wilder than 4 pm tea, and plenty of us live to ripe old ages to tell the tale.

          3.) I never said anything about the medical benefits of marijuana at all. That’s because I’m not particularly educated about that issue though, from the research I have done, it does seem that the benefits have been greatly oversold if they exist at all. (There does seem to be something to be said for it as a way to treat nausea.) I explicitly stuck to the the recreational aspects of it. My position is basically that responsible adults ought to be able to engage in responsible, recreational marijuana use, just as they are able to engage in responsible, recreational alcohol use without having to make up some ridiculous cover story to do so. Because, yeah, for most people who partake, it is an innocent social pasttime. And I don’t want marijuana pseudoscience being promoted all over the place in service of people just wanting to get high for fun once in a while. That does far more harm than people getting high for fun once in a while.

          4.) As for your kids, if you really feel that strongly about them never getting drunk or high ever and limiting their recreation to afternoon tea without so much as experimenting beyond that well, I guess I hope for your kids sake that a) they will be among the few that are straight-edge teetotalers who never, ever stray or that b) they will get good at convincing you that they are. FYI, the latter is much more likely but hopefully you can get good at denial too and then everyone will be happy.

          I have to say, I think you’ll all be better served by being realistic about the fact that teenagers experiment sometimes, by talking to them frankly about reducing risks, and by keeping lines of communication open with them. I’ll always be eternally grateful to my own parents for taking this approach with me and my sister (who were quite a bit more sensible and responsible when we got to college than many of our peers), and to the parents of the teenagers I have worked with (I have worked with youth for years and will be graduating with my MSW in spring) who have taken this approach with them.

        3. Based on the available evidence, you definitely have a right to be concerned. With the comparatively recent strains of Cannabis enriched in THC, the ratio of antipsychotic CBD is greatly reduced compared to the pot people smoked in the 1960s. It may be that for those who are genetically predisposed to psychosis, pot high in THC can trigger episodes, if not also long-lasting psychosis, such as schizophrenia. Granted, more research is needed to fully establish cause and effect, but why take a chance?

  2. It is the same situation in vancouver. almost all the licenses given out are done by naturopaths. The medical college has made it clear to MD that it would be unethical for them to work in one of the places handing out the cards. Not so for naturopaths…surprise, surprise.
    Do they not teach ethics in naturopathic school!! i have never heard of someone being denied a card by a naturoapth here in vancouver.

    1. What did you expect ? Naturopatic doctors are that much on the edge of science that they fall off. On Quora I am currently discussing with an ND whose website reads like the dictionary of questionable therapies and who is offering Helixor therapy. FDA Ban ? What is that ? I.o.W. this guy does the same as Britts old boss.

      1. Reminds me of “Doctor” Malachi Love Robinson. Kid had no medical qualifications whatsoever, but that didn’t stop him from advertising that:

        I am a well rounded proffessional that treats, and cares for patients, using a system of practice that bases treatment of physiological functions and abnormal conditions on natural laws governing the human body. I utilize physiological, psychological, and mechanical methods, such as air, water, light, heat, earth, phototherapy, food and herb therapy, psychotherapy, electrotherapy, physiotherapy, minor and orificial surgery, mechanotherapy, naturopathic corrections and manipulation, and natural methods or modalities, together with natural medicines, natural processed foods, and herbs and nature’s remedies.

        He ripped that straight from another website, verbatim, but it seems to suit a fake doctor.

        1. Hugh Gallagher’s college entry essay has this beat:

          “Are there any significant experiences you have had, or accomplishments you have realised, that have helped to define you as a person?

          I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

          I woo women with my sensuous and god-like trombone playing. I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in 20 minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love and an outlaw in Peru.

          Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello…I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang-gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

          I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire, I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail…Last summer I toured New Jersey with a travelling centrifugal force demonstration…My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

          I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

          I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago, I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four-course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prize-winning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis. But I have not yet gone to college.”

          1. Anti science trump just appointed Kennedy to spearhead a committee on vaccine safety. That will set the world public health back about 20! He has written articles that vaccination causes autism, ADHD and is simply put equal to the holocaust

    2. Coincidentally, a few years ago, I happened to be engaged in a research contract on constituents of Cannabis for a company located near Vancouver, B.C. Not only can I confirm what you claim, but I spoke with a young man in his 20s who obtained a MMJ card from a dispensary near Vancouver by simply telling the cashier he had “pain”. I also learned that some of the outlets in B.C. are owned by Asian crime gangs.

      Both in Canada and the U.S., strains of Cannabis rich in cannabidiol (CBD), as well as extracts of hemp leaves, stalks and leaf-stems containing high amounts of CBD, are among the most touted products in the market. The common claim is that whereas delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive component of Cannabis sativa and C. indica (whether the latter can be taxonomically counted as a separate species or not), CBD is not psychoactive. On that basis, marketers are brazenly selling CBD-rich hemp extracts under the guise of dietary supplements; a move ignoring the fact that all dietary supplements are federally regulated in the U.S. by the FDA who require that any such product is first demonstrated to be safe. More than that, a dietary supplement must first be established as having prior common use as a food in the U.S. To my knowledge, there is no such evidence, either for the leaves, stalks, or leaf-stems of hemp in the U.S., let alone any extracts thereof—including those enriched in CBD.

      A colleague of mine, a PhD chemist specializing in plant natural products, recently extracted and purified CBD from Cannabis and ingested a small quantity to see if the claim was true. Contrary to what marketers of CBD products would have the public believe, he described the effects as definitely psychoactive. How could that be? Years ago, working with simulated gastric ingestion, a group of toxicologists in Japan estimated that following ingestion, around 30% of CBD is converted to THC. My colleague suspects that the rate of conversion could be far greater, with some people more active metabolizers than others. As to whether CBD-rich extracts of hemp or any other strain of Cannabis can be safely taken as dietary supplements, the conscientious court of medical science is still out. Although some studies on the potential toxicity of CBD exist (see for example this), no one has come forward with a body of evidence to show that any Cannabis product except for the seeds of hemp is safe.

  3. A couple years ago, a fellow ND instructor was confronted about her career path by a student in the middle of class. He said something along the lines of “you just teach because you can’t make it as a naturopath.” Hearing about her encounter was a nasty and deep stab. It highlighted painful truths: You really can’t make it as a naturopath. Finding a way to make enough money while maintaining any shred of integrity is ultimately a game you can’t win. You have to constantly rationalize the irrational, create and maintain convoluted delusions to make the unethical feel ethical, and ignore a relentless anxiety that something about your entire existence just isn’t right. This “pot doctor” phenomenon is a painful symptom of the overarching problem: naturopathy is not a legitimate profession or career. It turned out that I enjoyed teaching and probably have some talent for it. Maybe one day I will have an opportunity to teach in a context where I can contribute valuable and rational material to people who will be in a position to use it wisely and ethically. We’ll see where my late-blooming career takes me. I am prompted to ask, though, what will happen to each new class of ND grads? What about the reasonably intelligent students with good intentions and a potential to contribute? How many will be stuck watching themselves fall into the trap of working as “pot-doctors,” teachers who have no business being teachers, employees for walk-in/cash-based “community medicine” clinics, colon hydro “techs,” glorified IV “nurses” or MA’s, back-crackers pushing nutraceuticals, “weight loss specialists” performing minor surgery with hormone pellets, or expensive “estheticians” who were inexplicably given the right to perform risky injections and procedures? The crushing debt pushes us (i.e.well-meaning intelligent people, who likely make up around 60-70% of ND students, based on my purely subjective opinion) to do all sorts of crazy things.

    1. I will save comments about the other 30-40% of NDs/ND students for now: the ones who choose ND school precisely because it is the easiest path to one of the aforementioned unethical jobs.

    2. The implications of this line “you just teach because you can’t make it as a naturopath.”are far deeper reaching consequences than just financials. At a medical university no student would dare to say something like this, because instructors have a proven track record in academics and medicine. If one student would dare to say, the reply would be “I have achieved this and this and this, where are your credentials ?” The fact that students have this feeling tells a lot about the quality of the faculty of ND schools.

    3. What do you think will happen if/when marijuana is legalized nation wide? Are all these “pot doctors” just screwed?

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