San Francisco in early August dosen't always mean sunshine, but it was a gorgeous sunny day at Dolores Park when I met my first interviewee, Dr.Rachna Patel. Rachna is a New Jersey native who originally trained in emergency medicine and continued schooling to become a licensed physician in the state of California.
It being my first interview, I wasn't as prepared as I would have hoped. I wanted to record our conversation but didn't have the capacity to do so, so I took notes. So rather than a word-for-word interview, this will be an overview of our conversation and the topics we covered.
Xochi: What drew you to Cannabis?
Rachna: I always knew that Cannabis helped me in my college years with sleep trouble and anxiety. One day I was browsing Craigslist and saw an ad looking for a Medical Marijuana Doctor. I decided to look further into the research around Medical Marijuana and what it meant to be a doctor prescribing this as medicine. I found the research to be insightful. The use of harmful and addictive pharmaceuticals is all too common, where Cannabis has much less negative side effects and after working with patients I have found that they also see far fewer side effects than with pharmaceuticals. Being that I use medical marijuana myself for anxiety and insomnia, I can come from place of empathy when I'm working with patients that are struggling with the same and am recommending Cannabis to them. A doctor should take adequate time to fully explain medications, dosing and side effects when prescribing their patients something new. When I meet with patients I spend anywhere from 20-40 minutes a person, analyzing their personal needs and teaching them the best way to use Cannabis to combat their ailments.
Xochi: How long have you been in the Bay Area?
Rachna: When I finished medical training on the east coast and received my license to practice in California, I moved to Sacramento to work at a clinic out there. The clinic I worked at was more focused on pumping out cards, rather than spending time with patients and teaching them about Cannabis. I moved to Walnut Creek in 2013 to start my own practice.
Xochi: What are your favorite strains?
Rachna: I don't pay attention to strains as much as I do the compounds that make up the strain. I think that there needs to be a greater emphasis on specific THC and CBD ratios as well as terpene profiles, because strain names are changed so often by dispensaries it's hard to know what you are actually ingesting. Ultimately, consistency of product is one of the most important factors in this industry. Some companies I like personally for their consistency are Pianta Tinta, Sweet ReLeaf and Cheeba Chew.
Xochi: What do you use Cannabis for and how do you use it?
Rachna: I use Cannabis for sleep and anxiety. I've tried a variety of methods, but prefer to ingest. I have heard from my women patients who use the new vaginal suppositories that it's helped increase their labido! But since the active ingredients in Cannabis will store themselves in your fat cells, you use it when you need and use it when you don't. This is why overmedicating leads to a higher tolerance and less relief from the doses you are used to taking.
Xochi: What do you think about CBD?
Rachna: I think THC and CBD are both beneficial in their own ways and together, but ultimately the most important thing when looking at Cannabis as medicine is the active ingredients in the specific product you are using. It all goes back to the specific THC and CBD ratios and terpene profiles.
Xochi: What do you hope to see come of this industry in the future?
Rachna: The proof of Cannabis as a healthier alternative medicine is there and real, but I think outright legalization will help this system tremendously. There are too many barriers for legal patients, especially in states with newer programs where regulations are more strict. People want the privacy to use Cannabis as they wish without having to add their name to a list or become a part of some database. As a doctor, I am concerned about prescribing Cannabis to everyone as I don't think it will be helpful for every condition. I think that Cannabis as medicine needs to have more education about the specific chemicals working in your body and how they affect you as an individual. When you walk into a dispensary looking for relief from a certain ailment, what the budtender suggests works from them may not be the same for you. Also, certain conditions should stay away from certain chemicals found in certain types of Cannabis. If there was more emphasis on specific chemicals and how they affect us individually, it would be easier for people to find the right type of Cannabis for them. If Medical Cannabis continues, these are the types of things that need to be focused on more. I'm also concerned about the regulations that cultivation facilities follow, and how so much Cannabis tests positive for harmful pesticides and fungicides. I hope that outright legalization or a more refined medical system will help with some of these bigger picture concerns.
Xochi: Are you the only person in your family who uses Cannabis?
Rachna: Coming from a very traditional Indian family, I initially avoided talking to them about my profession. They knew I studied medecine, and I had told them I started a general practice in California, rather than tell them I was prescribing people Cannabis. There was a big family get-together happening and I was anxious about having to bring up my work at the party. At the end of the day, I wanted my parents to find out from me, and not from another relative at the party, so I opened up to them about my job. My mom's family is much more conservative than my dad's, but it was still surprising when I found out that some family members had used it before. I am relieved that it's out in the open and that my family continues to be supportive, and some even reach out to ask how Cannabis can help their life too!
My meeting with Rachna was very insightful. There was so many times during our conversation where I said 'wow I never thought about it like that.' She is very eager to learn about the array of products available for her and her patients and encourages companies to reach out with her with information about what they have to offer. You can reach her via her website, and she's also on YouTube!