Fine tight lipped about RI’s medical marijuana program
It was an interesting scene last night at Brown University’s panel discussion on Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program. The event was hosted by Brown University Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which managed to pull in some impressive speakers-
- Dr. Seth Bock of the yet to open Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center
- Ellen Lenox Smith – a medical marijuana patient and tireless advocate for the program
- Dr. Michael Fine– the Director of the RI Department of Health.
The panel was a little lopsided at first. Dr. Fine arrived about an hour late, leaving Bock and Smith to trade fairly similar opinions about the state’s marijuana program and the current state of limbo for the three compassion centers.
When Fine finally joined the panel, he offered extremely cautious answers to questions from the audience. What does he think of the state’s medical marijuana program? Fine would only say-
Our job is to do what the legislature told us to do.
What does he think of legislation that would put the Department of Health in charge of setting limits on the amount of marijuana the compassion centers can have?
I try not to have opinions on things the legislature is deciding.
Would Fine be willing to take advice from medical marijuana patients and caregivers if the DOH does have to set these limits?
We’re always willing to accept information as long as it’s evidence based.
What about if he sets aside his role as the Director of the Department of Health and speaks as a doctor, does he believe in the medical value of marijuana?
I can’t set aside my role. My personal opinions don’t matter on this.
Fine did talk in some detail about the role of doctors in the medical marijuana program. He says it puts physicians like him in an awkward position- recommending marijuana for medical purposes without any control or knowledge of the strains or doses that patient might take.
He said when doctors recommend medical marijuana for a patient, that permission holds for two years, much longer than if a physician had written a prescription and monitored the patients progress before he or she allowed for a refill. Here’s a rough paraphrase-
This is what keeps me up at night. Imagine a world in which patient got an authorization [for medical marijuana] presenting a symptom that seemed like it would respond [to marijuana] but it didn’t. And then the patient used more and more to control the symptom while the condition got worse.
JoAnne Leppanen with RIPAC countered that Fine should sleep well at night; shes knows people who’ve been self medicating with marijuana for years and the program encouraged them to finally see a doctor and treat their health problems effectively.
Fine was visibly uncomfortable with his muzzled state and later told me he wished we lived in a world where people didn’t have to be so careful about what they say. But he seemed to relax at the end of the forum, shaking hands with his fellow panelists and chatting openly with audience members.
I was surprised to see Seth Bock, Ellen Lenox Smith, and Joanne Leppanen introduce themselves to Fine. The medical marijuana folks had never met him before! So, although there wasn’t much Dr. Fine could say at this panel, his mere presence seemed like an opening for future, perhaps more candid, conversations.