Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Author: Brad Schmidt
Published: Monday, November 22, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Oregonian
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
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
"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