One sign of the changing times with a conservative state like Arkansas voting to legalize medical marijuana for certain illnesses is literally a sign. The AR Cannabis Clinic has put up billboards across the state advertising the clinic as the current statewide leader in medical marijuana certifications.
The clinic was founded by David Nguyen, MD, and his wife, Hannah Lee, both lifetime Arkansas residents.
"As an emergency physician who saw first-hand the deadly effects of the opioid crisis, I wanted to do something about it," Nguyen said. "I researched medical cannabis and felt strongly that it could make a big difference in the lives of my patients and the lives of so many Arkansans who are suffering."
At the beginning of November, AR Cannabis Clinic had five clinics open out of 12 that are planned in order to have a clinic within an hour's drive of anyone in the state.
"Our company mission is to increase access to medical marijuana to as many qualified patients as we can," Nguyen said. "Currently we are taking appointments for Little Rock, North Little Rock, Texarkana, Bentonville and Hot Springs, and a location in Fayetteville will be opening soon. Additional clinics are planned Fort Smith, Clinton, Jonesboro, West Memphis, Pine Bluff and El Dorado. We have the largest reach and look to keep the market leader status."
The AR Cannabis Clinic certifies qualified patients for a medical marijuana card. Nguyen said not everyone qualifies and they don't certify everyone who walks in the door.
"However, what makes our clinic stand out from the others is that we do not charge the patient any money if we cannot certify them for a marijuana card," he said. "If the patient does not quality, they basically get a free doctor's consultation. And we do explain to patients how they might qualify in the future."
Currently the most common qualifying conditions they are seeing are chronic pain, arthritis, muscle cramps, spasms, PTSD and nausea.
While some Arkansas health authorities question the efficacy of marijuana, Nguyen said to stay tuned because the medical research is catching up with the results they are seeing on the ground.
"Our patients tell us they are getting great results and many come to us already knowing the medicine works better than their other medications," Nguyen said. "Eventually, the federal government will reclassify medical marijuana and, when they do, then federal research dollars can start to be spent on marijuana so the proof of its effectiveness will eventually come."
Nguyen said patients tell them medical marijuana is giving them great relief without the side effects of prescription medicines. Some report it helped them get off opioids for pain. And many people like that it is a natural product.
"Marijuana is a natural medicine that has been used historically for thousands of years in many different civilizations," Nguyen said. "It is not made in a lab and it has a long track record."
Nguyen said they recommend medical marijuana be ingested instead of smoked.
"That delivery method results in a more sustained release of the medication and there is no risk of any lung issues that can potentially happen when you inhale or vape a medicine," Nguyen said. "The strains that are currently available are varied. There are different growers growing the medicine and each dispensary carries a wide assortment of products. Typically, if you do not want to experience a 'high,' you would opt for a strain with a lower percentage of THC. However, the combination of the THC and CBD together usually is more effective than one component alone because they work in synergy in the body."
Nguyen's advice for physicians who are reluctant to certify a patient for medical marijuana is that the AR Cannabis Clinic is happy to help.
"We will take care of your patients," he said. "Medical marijuana is here and it is not going away. Please refer interested patients to the AR Cannabis Clinic since we are the only specialized medical marijuana clinic in the state that is fully registered with the Arkansas State Medical Board."
For more information, go online to: AR Cannabis Clinic