Why I Recommend Medical Cannabis

Estelle Toby Goldstein, MD
Napa County, California
December 2013

Why would a highly credentialed MD psychopharmacologist, board-certified psychiatrist and former FDA clinical trials primary investigator become a champion of medicinal cannabis?

Especially considering I have never used it.

I'll tell you why.

For the past two years, I have been working to bring honest, scientific and medical information to those who really need medical cannabis. I blog regularly at http://betterbrainsonline.com and have done so for several years. I consider myself not only an educator, but a watchdog and public guardian, a whistle-blower and an activist for public health and consumer protection.

Some have questioned my motivation for swimming outside the mainstream of the medical establishment. My motives are selfish – I want to be true to myself, sleep well at night, and be able to look at myself in the mirror each morning.

I originally wanted to be a brain surgeon and did my internship and residencies in that field, also picking up a fellowship in neurology. After a stint in the US Army, I changed specialties to psychiatry with a fellowship in psychopharmacology.

Immediately following my education, I became a junior professor at the University of Kansas and later the University of Oklahoma. In those institutions, I performed many clinical trials during the development phases of such familiar drugs as Prozac and Zyprexa.

I picked up the "Renegade Doctor" sobriquet when I broke with academia -- not only disillusioned by the back-stabbing politics of publish-or-perish, but also with the restrictions on research imposed by Big Pharma. I had always been aware of the pervasive influence of the drug companies from my days in medical school and in private practice. The government-pharma connections have gradually become public knowledge (although not to the full extent possible, as the public won't believe it all), but my personal break with traditional medicine came after a catastrophic illness.

In 1999, I found myself dying of a congenital condition that traditional medicine misdiagnosed and mistreated. I had to cure myself to survive. I wrote a book about this struggle, but for the sake of brevity, let's just say I had to broaden my horizons beyond the medical establishment if I wanted to live.

I basically cured myself, in the process losing around 200 lbs without drugs, diet, exercise or surgery. Then I launched an alternative medicine practice specializing in not only vitamins and mineral supplements, but amino acids and other exotic -- but entirely non-toxic and totally safe -- treatments.

But despite my own past experience with non-traditional therapies, I was still skeptical about medicinal cannabis when it became legal in California. I was practicing in San Diego at the time. My practice had to be cash-only as insurance would only pay for prescription treatments. As my practice dwindled and people became more and more dependent upon government-paid programs for their health care, I started doing some more research (in the most literal and technical sense).

I opened my mind to cannabis. I read literature from all over the world. I examined research protocols to find flaws in their designs. I tried to deconstruct the results to see if they were warranted by the data. In the end, I was convinced that marijuana was a valuable addition to the Pharmacopoeia of medicinal products and pharmaceutical substances.

In 2012, I became a Cannabis doctor. Marijuana is the safest drug I have ever recommended to a patient. I prefer it to any anti-anxiety drug, mood stabilizer, sleep medicine or pain remedy currently on the market in the USA.

My field is still a challenge, due to the refusal of the federal government to recognize the medical use of cannabis. But as more states allow medical use – and as some more states make marijuana legal for all adults – cannabis can be taken seriously as a useful, safe and superior remedy to a huge variety of problems plaguing medical consumers today.

I proudly hold my head high when I tell people, "I am a medical marijuana doctor."