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The Pot Doc Is In


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Grass Valley physician Dr. Stephen Banister is in the business of making people feel good - or at least a little more comfortable - with his approval of marijuana to treat their pain.

This jovial, laid-back Maryland transplant would not say whether he uses marijuana, but he does think very highly of the pain-relieving plant.

Banister graduated from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1971, and he has been instrumental in shaping local standards for medical marijuana since its use was legalized in California in 1996.

He continues to advocate for those standards.

Patients aren't 'stoners'

Banister's dog Sundance trotted around his office during a recent interview. Banister and Christal, his wife of five years, had just returned from a two-week vacation in Hawaii. The tanned doctor, in his worn leather sandals, talked of his love of sailing.

A bowl of cherries sat on the kitchen counter, and his office staff greeted everyone with smiles.

Three men sat in the waiting room. Two looked to be in their 20s.

Banister's patients are "normal, working people" from all walks of life who come to him with myriad ailments, he said.

"You don't see hippies and stoners," he said.

Most people are a little nervous when they first walk through his door, Banister said, so he likes to provide a friendly environment. They're wary of law enforcement because they are breaking federal law by using cannabis.

He's treated several thousand people since the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use in California in 1996. Nearly all his patients, he said, already were using marijuana illegally to treat their pain before they sought his help.

"I think that's an indication it's not a good law," he said.

Being one of the few doctors who recommend pot in the area has challenged his resolve, Banister said.

He was prosecuted by the Medical Board of California on charges of inadequate charting; a thinly-veiled attempt, he said, to prevent him from approving marijuana use for his patients.

He completed probation for the charge in March of 2005. Through all of his legal problems, he said, he never stopped recommending pot.

"I felt like the (state) law was not going to be useful if doctors weren't doing it," he said.

"I think cannabis should be legalized," he said. "Alcohol is. Cigarettes are. If you're going to make things legal that are dangerous, why would you make something that's not dangerous illegal? There are no death from overdoses. If you take too much, you just go to sleep."

A common misconception is that doctors will issue a recommendation without adequate screening, he said.

"There has to be documentation of the problem, such as an MRI," he said. A patient also must show a history of treatment for the problem, he said.

The majority of his patients come with chronic back pain. Others have multiple sclerosis, cancer, migraines, fibromyalgia or colitis.

He also has treated people for attention deficit disorder, including teenagers. Cannabis can have anti-ADD qualities, he said.

He rejects a common argument that marijuana is a "gateway drug," and he said he cannot control people who choose to overuse it.

"You can't control overuse" of marijuana any more than the overuse of prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Banister said. "I leave that up to the patient."

And he said there is "no evidence" that marijuana use leads to addiction to harder drugs. "People who abuse drugs may come from an addictive family," he said.

He has recommended marijuana to treat drug addiction, calling it "harm reduction." The idea, he said, is to replace the effects of a dangerous drug with the effects of marijuana use - which he considers healthier. Banister predicted more use of marijuana as a narcotics substitute in the future.

"You have to look at this realistically," he said. "There are millions of people who use cannabis and they function. I drink wine, for example, but I still come to work in the morning."

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: TheUnion.com
Author: Robyn Moormeister
Contact: robynm@theunion.com
Copyright: 2007 TheUnion.com
Website: Nevada County Local News: The pot doc is in - TheUnion.com


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:headbang:This MD is a hero to our cause and wish there were more of them in other states who could start advocating the use of MMJ...DEA Gestopo tactics should not be used against MD's trying to aid their patients for relief. Everyday there are doctors that would take the time to consider it, but the threat of losing everything they worked so hard to acheive intimidates them to steer clear of controversy & Federal INTERFERENCES.VOTE OUT ALL NARROW MINDED ASSHOLES OUT THERE WHO DON'T KNOW DICK ABOUT MEDICINE AND SHOULD LEAVE THAT TO THE ONE'S WHO GO TO MED SCHOOL...AND TO ALL MEDICAL STUDENTS WHO TRAVEL THIS SITE FROM TIME TO TIME, BEAR IN MIND THAT YOUR SERVICE TO YOUR FUTURE PATIENTS REQUIRE YOU TO STUDY THE EMPIRICAL MEDICINAL PROPERTIES OF MARIJUANA SO YOU WILL BE PREPARED W/ ALL THE BEST YOU CAN OFFER THEM.:smoke2:
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