There’s an old saying that goes, “the family that prays together, stays together.” But there is a new family that is using the mantra “the family that stays medical marijuana together, stays together.”
Yes, you heard that right.
The Knoxes are a family of four doctors living in Oregon and California who specialize in medical marijuana.
“We’re all fighting the same fight,” said Janice Knox, the founding doctor behind the American Cannabinoid Clinics and the mother of two daughters–also physicians–and the wife of another doctor. “I think when they do see us they’re surprised at who we are,” she said of her patients.
Janice led the family’s move into medical marijuana in 2012, when she retired from a nearly 35-year career in anesthesiology. One of 15 children, she grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and went north for medical school in the 1970s.
But she got tired of working up to seven days a week–and of being mistaken for a nurse. “Patients would say, ‘I want a white male doctor,’” Knox told the Washington Post.
After finally stepping away from the job, she got a call from a “card mill” — a practice known more for writing prescriptions for medical marijuana needed a replacement doctor to fill in after one of her colleagues had been sent to rehab.
She had always been interested in natural treatments, and she agreed to fill in — and was pleasantly surprised to see that the patients were not a bunch of “weed heads.”
“I was shocked to see the people that came into card mill,” she said. “Grandmothers, grandfathers, people with Seeing Eye dogs. They weren’t at all who I expected. . . . These were people who conventional medicine had failed.”
But these patients had questions like when is the best time to take the drug? What strain is the best? Who cannot take the drug? Was smoking pot better than a cannabis edible or a cannabis oil or a cannabis hand cream?
Knox didn’t know.
“I was embarrassed because they expected me, a physician, to tell them how to use this medicine,” she said. “I couldn’t answer them. I did not know anything about cannabis.”
So then she did what every good doctor would do in that situation: she started doing her research.
Janice delved into research of what is called the “endocannabinoid system” — a network of receptors in the body and brain that respond to cannabis and regulate, among other things, immune response, liver function and the production of insulin.
The scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana called cannabinoids has led to two FDA-approved medications in pill form, dronabinol and nabilone, used to treat nausea and boost appetite. Cannabinoids are chemicals related to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s main mind-altering ingredient.
Knox has read all the studies she could, attended conferences and became certified as a cannabis specialist.
Knox’s husband, David Knox, an emergency room physician for 38 years, kept his day job but also started working at the clinic. He knew nothing about the endocannabinoid system but quickly saw the potential of cannabis as a treatment for epilepsy, cancer-therapy side effects, and pain.
But the husband and wife weren’t the only members of the family who wanted to take the business to new highs (pun intended). The two daughters Rachel Knox, 35, and Jessica Knox, 31, also wanted in.
After leaving Portland, where they grew up, they lived together in Boston while Jessica finished her undergraduate degree at Harvard University and Rachel did a post-baccalaureate program in preparation for medical school at Tufts University. Then both entered Tufts medical school, graduating in 2012 from a dual-degree program that also offered MBAs.
After they completed their residencies, Rachel Knox ended up back in Portland, while her sister moved to San Francisco. But telemedicine allowed Jessica Knox to work with her sister and her mom at the American Cannabinoid Clinics. Instead of seeing as many patients as possible as quickly as possible, Rachel Knox said that the family would actually practice medicine with cannabis.
They educate patients on the beneficial effects of marijuana as well as it’s dangers. They also advise on…