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Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Author: Brad Schmidt
Published: Monday, November 22, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Oregonian
Contact: [email protected]

Controversial figure Phillip Leveque has lost his license to practice, but he still works to help those in pain.

Molalla -- Three times a week, 81-year-old Phillip Leveque drives down a half-mile gravel road toward Oregon 211, leaving home for a 30-mile commute to The Hemp & Cannabis Foundation in Northeast Portland. At his age, Leveque doesn't need to be a clerk checking over medical marijuana applications.

But ensuring that patients provide the required medical and personal histories -- needed to qualify for the state's medical marijuana program -- may be as close as he'll ever again come to helping those suffering from chronic pain.

A doctor of osteopathy, Leveque became the state's most prolific medical marijuana physician from 1999 through March , signing 40 percent to 50 percent of the applications for Oregon's nearly 10,000 cardholders.

But after numerous run-ins with the state Board of Medical Examiners, Leveque in October lost his medical license and with it his ability to vouch for medical marijuana patients.

"This is the only thing that I am able to do -- and that I do," Leveque said. "Because of my own severe medical problem, when a patient tells me, 'Doctor, I hurt,' I understand what that means."

Since 1991, Leveque has suffered chronic pain as a complication from spinal anesthesia. "Fire" is how Leveque describes the feeling in his feet and tailbone. "All the time" is how often it's present.

Leveque said too many doctors approve marijuana only for the dying, ignoring those who are going to live for many years and need pain relief.

"By definition, a physician is supposed to be sympathetic to his patients," Leveque said. "If he's not sympathetic to his patients, he shouldn't be a doctor. Period."

Despite his pain, Leveque says he does not use marijuana and has little firsthand experience with the drug.

In his first of three episodes with pot, about 10 years ago, a loaded bong he got for Christmas didn't even get him high.

The last time, Leveque unwittingly ate cookies baked with marijuana.

"This was a very, very unhappy event as far as I was concerned," he said, recalling wobbly legs and dry heaves. "I know now what the meaning of word getting high is because I had to scrape myself off the ceiling."

When voters approved the 1998 Oregon Medical Marijuana Act -- for those suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV, severe pain or severe nausea, to name a few authorized conditions -- Leveque quickly made a name for himself as a "cannabis-therapy specialist."

But the state questioned Leveque's practice of signing applications without personally examining patients or keeping records.

According to the state statistics, Leveque is one of almost 1,500 doctors who has signed applications for medical marijuana patients. Of the roughly 10,000 medical marijuana users, five doctors have signed more than 70 percent of the applications, with Leveque the conspicuous and controversial leader.

"I think that he thinks he's helping people," said Kathleen Haley, executive director of the board. "But, in fact, I think he's harming people, and the board truly felt that, and that's why he needed to have his license revoked."

Leveque strongly disagrees.

The Molalla doctor claims to know more about medical marijuana than any other doctor in Oregon -- he says he's studied the drug for the past 50 years and is an unwavering advocate.

"I would have never ever have guessed he was going to become the center of the storm," said Paul Stanford, a marijuana advocate who with Leveque co-hosts "Cannabis Common Sense," a weekly public access TV show. "We thought he personified everybody's grandpa."

Next year, Leveque will go before the Oregon Court of Appeals in an effort to get his license back, his lawyer, Ann Witte, said. If his attempt is successful, Leveque said he would go back to signing marijuana applications and weather whatever criticism comes his way.

"I've been called a quack by so many people," he said, "I begin to think I'm a duck."

Related Articles & Web Site:

Hemp & Cannabis Foundation

Marijuana Doctor Loses License

State Suspends 'Marijuana Doctor' Leveque

Oregon Doctors License Suspended for Cards



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