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Clearing the Air

United Patients Group helps untangle misinformation about cannabis

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That seems to be the very point those particular staffers were bringing up. Are you saying that some dispensaries are better informed about the products they provide than others?

Well, yes. In our experience, a lot of dispensaries have chosen not to get the vital cannabis education that we offer. We've invited local groups over and over, and usually they never show up. So we were thrilled when that group from Shasta called and signed up.

If a client comes into a dispensary and says they have cancer, well, as you heard at the seminar, cannabis is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. It depends a lot on the medical history. Dispensaries should be referring gravely ill and chronically ill people to someone like our medical team. They should not be guessing.

On the other side, a lot of times a new patient at a dispensary gets a "new patient freebie," as they call it, which is usually an edible of some sort—a cookie, a brownie, a cupcake. But does that patient have diabetes? Does that patient have cancer? Cancer patients shouldn't be eating sugar. They should not be freely dispensing these things without having a lot of education. And it sounds like the Shasta group does have that information, or some of it, and is doing the responsible thing and getting more.

So they can better answer a client's questions?

Yes. And so they can know what questions to ask, themselves. We were thrilled that that group from Shasta came.

POT 101  John and Corinne Malanca, founders of United Patients Group, are on a mission to educate people about the benefits of medical marijuana.
  • POT 101 John and Corinne Malanca, founders of United Patients Group, are on a mission to educate people about the benefits of medical marijuana.

It was interesting that the perspective that they were representing was that it was the prescribers—the doctors writing the prescriptions for cannabis and sending them to a dispensary—that are most in need of education. That the dispensaries are the ones on the front lines, trying to take care of their clients, but doctors are undereducated on how to counsel a patient as to what kind of cannabis they should be using.

I totally agree that better education for all health professionals, and better communication, is exactly what's needed right now. My personal opinion is that if a client who is gravely ill comes into a dispensary and has come with a recommendation from a medical professional about which formula and dosing to use, there should be a specific place to go—other than a cannabis dispensary intended for the general population—where they can get very specific medical advice. But, yes, communication is key.

In a place like Marin, where there are no brick-and-mortar dispensaries at the moment, what options are there for people who have a clear prescription from a doctor, and have been given solid advice from a medical professional?

Well, there are reputable mail-order services within California. Organizations you join, under the right circumstances, and they provide you with the exact items, the formulation and potency and dosage that your doctor or medical professional recommends. That's what we recommend. The medicine is sent directly to their house, so they don't have to go anywhere.

From hearing your story, we know you had to learn a lot, very quickly, when you were trying to determine how best to take care of your father, who was failing, unable to eat and wasting away. And no one had the information readily available.

It was mind-boggling! On the flip side, it was awe-inspiring, and I might even say addicting. [Laughs] Can I use that word? There was so much to discover. We became ravenous for any new information that became available. Yes, we've been buried in it, and working six or seven days a week ever since.

So what do you think needs to happen now, in order to get reliable information out to the public?

It's got to be a grassroots thing. But it's important—it's a life-or-death matter, actually—that the grave and chronically ill, people who don't have a lot of time, don't get caught up in this tangled web of misinformation and fear that's out there.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people out there who don't want the information. They have an aversion to this industry, and they just don't want to know. And people are suffering because of it.

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