Dr. Hashemiyoon is a member of the American College of Phlebology (disease of the veins), the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, and the American College of Aesthetic/Cosmetic Surgeons.
He developed a new antiviral agent for treating DNA diseases, like the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). He also created specific protocols for men with low testosterone and was the first doctor to use finasteride for the treatment of male-pattern baldness before Propecia got FDA approved. Dr. Hashemiyoon developed a tertiary care center at George Washington University Hospital to treat the worst cases of respiratory benign tumors medically rather than surgically.
We’re all about non-invasive treatments wherever possible here at Leafwell, so Dr. Hashemiyoon is in good company. Knowing that medical marijuana and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) might be one of the keys towards developing less invasive forms of medical health care, we asked Dr. Hashemiyoon about his history with medical cannabis and its future in the medical industry.
When did you first start thinking of cannabis as medicine?
I became familiar with the use of cannabis as medication in the mid-’90s when studies came out showing that it was effective – and actually even more effective than some of the prescription medications that we had for cancer and chemotherapy patients dealing with nausea and vomiting. That was when cannabis and its medicinal benefits first came to my attention. But, other than reading that study in a medical journal, I didn’t really pay much attention and still had a generally neutral-to-slightly-negative attitude towards cannabis. I thought that it played a small role [in therapeutic usage and the human body], and that’s about it.
It wasn’t until 2010, when medical marijuana had become popular here in California and throughout the country that I actually took the time to sit down and personally research medical marijuana. I became curious because multiple states had started to approve it for medicinal use. When I did that research in 2010 I began to really understand and appreciate all the various medical applications that cannabis had.
I also began to understand the relatively safe side effect profile that it had. Cannabis is actually really high safe and I didn’t know any of this until 2010.
Has there been a change in attitude towards cannabis in medicine?
There definitely has been a significant change amongst medical doctors in the United States in their attitudes towards medical marijuana.
Interestingly, I followed the same arc that Dr. Sanjay Gupta did. From early childhood until my early-to-mid 30s, I always thought of marijuana as being an illegal drug that’s bad for you, and it’s something only ‘bad’ people do. Now, I’ve done a 180° turn and I’m appalled that marijuana was ever made illegal in the first place with no real scientific or medical reasoning behind it at all!
There was really no basis for making cannabis illegal. It was a political and economic move. If you actually look at it objectively, there is an incredible risk-to-benefit ratio for medical marijuana compared to a lot of other over-the-counter and prescription medicines.
Is cannabis a “cutting-edge” or “frontier” medication?
You could say it’s a “rediscovered” cutting-edge medicine because it’s been around for 5,000-plus years. So, mankind’s been using it for thousands and thousands of years, both recreationally and medicinally, with no problems or issues.
Suddenly, in the 1930s, this propaganda-based project was undertaken to make it illegal and remove access for public use. This anti-cannabis propaganda was predominantly fueled by Harry J. Anslinger’s hatred and bigotry. It’s taken 90 years for the educated grassroots to come back and ask, “Why is this illegal? It has lots of potential benefits, medicinally speaking.”
I wouldn’t say it’s new, cutting-edge medicine, but more of a“rediscovered” cutting-edge medicine, because we have evidence from thousands of years ago that proves its use among ancient cultures. For whatever reason, it fell out of favor, and now it’s making a comeback as most genuine things do! You can’t keep the truth hidden or suppressed forever. The truth has come out and it’s starting to spread.
What is the American Medical Evaluation Center (AMEC)?
I’m the Founder and I created the AMEC as a venue for doctors and patients to have access to each other. There are several doctors that work there who see the patients and have been evaluating patients for the last 5-6 years for various ailments. It’s just your regular medical office that’s established and compliant under California state statutes. The doctors perform a proper physical exam and evaluate whether they have an ailment that could possibly benefit from the use of medical marijuana.
What advice would you give to those thinking of trying medical cannabis for the first time?
First I would say, make sure you are legal and compliant with state laws. On the federal level, there is no legality for most products. Shamefully, it doesn’t matter if you’re going to die in a week, you can’t use it. For the average patient, I would advise trying to be as compliant as you can be to individual state laws.
Start with small amounts, and see how it works, and then build up from there. The reason for this is because there is not enough data and not enough consistent dosing methods out there. Every single time someone uses cannabis, you don’t know exactly what it is you’re in for, so be careful.
I also recommend not to smoke it, because anything smoked – it doesn’t matter what it is, whether lemongrass, tobacco, or marijuana – is bad for the lungs.
What are the potential uses of topicals?
Topical use has become very popular right now. Again, self-reporting back from patients has been generally positive, in that topical ointments seem to work well for various skin conditions, for chronic joint and muscle inflammation, and pain with fewer mental status side-effects.
Where do you see medical marijuana in 5-10 years’ time?
There’s no question in my opinion that eventually, it will become legal in the United States. Once you have, let’s say 45 out of 50 states in which it’s legal, it doesn’t make sense for it to be illegal on the federal level. That would be ridiculous.
Plus, many changes are economically driven, and there’s a lot of money to be made in the cannabis industry. Whether it’s recreational or medicinal. And those economic pressures will finally bear out and it will become completely legal in the United States. I believe it will be the next “gold rush” or “internet boom.”
From there, it’ll sort of be like dropping a stone in a pond with the ripples spreading out and moving on to other countries. Canada has made the plant completely legal and legalization is spreading rapidly through Central and South America. It’s just a matter of time.
Is cannabis a potential anti-aging medicine?
There is some evidence that sort of points in that direction. Certainly, we know that cannabis has anti-tumor properties. One of the things that kills you as you get older is cancer. So, if it helps to prevent you from getting some cancers, and you don’t get it, you’re obviously going to live longer.
There is also some evidence that points to some anti-aging properties in the sense that it would prevent certain diseases from developing or progressing as you age. If you don’t die from said diseases you’re going to live longer and be healthier!
Could cannabis be seen as a preventative medication?
Again, that’s a difficult question to answer because there’s not enough research done with proper double-blind, controlled, prospective studies that indicate something one way or another. I think the answers to these questions are probably not going to be answered for the next 50 years. Once marijuana becomes legal on the federal level, or at least off schedule I, it will become more accessible to the general public and researchers in the lab. That’s when you’ll start getting all these different studies and this body of work will start to emerge that will help delineate the answers to a lot of these questions.
But let’s say marijuana becomes schedule II, or at least more available to these researchers within the next 10 years. Next, we’ll have to start doing all these research studies, which will take another 10-15 years for the initial studies to be done and analyzed. Then, of course, more and more studies will be done and so on and so forth. So we’re not going to know the answers to these questions for probably about 20-25 years minimum, up to 50+ years from now.
Finally, what makes the cannabis plant so special to you?
For me, it’s the fact that its risk-to-benefit ratio seems to be so high. There are so many potential benefits with essentially very little risk across the board. It’s not zero, but it’s better than most of the prescription medications out there.
Most people don’t want to take addictive medicine anymore and we know that there is an opioid crisis. People are physically addicted and can’t stop. They have to go and see a detox doctor and figure out how to get sober. Patients who stop using marijuana don’t have this problem. There’s no real hard evidence of any physical addiction to marijuana, certainly not to that extent.
For another perspective consider this: there’s never been a recorded case of a single death attributable to the use of cannabis alone. Now, you mix it with alcohol, with Valium, or other drugs, then yes the combination can be lethal. But if you use just cannabis by itself, there’s never been a recorded case of death attributable to its use by itself. Every year, there are over 800 deaths recorded from the overuse of Tylenol (paracetamol, acetaminophen), which any 6-year-old can walk into a store and buy. How does that make sense?
For me, the fascinating thing about cannabis is its risk-benefit ratio, which indicates that if it’s used properly, it is very good. You have a high chance of obtaining the benefit, with a very low chance of having a nefarious side-effect that could actually harm you. What more can you ask for than that?
A drug’s benefit comes from how well it binds to receptors throughout the body. Cannabinoids bind to receptors throughout the body to a degree any big pharmaceutical company would drool over. Cannabis is extremely well-binding to the various receptors in the body for things like nausea, migraine headaches, insomnia, etc. So it clearly works well for several various indications.