Arkansas Medical Practice Devoted Solely to Medical Cannabis
The Times’ cover story this week on patient struggles to get doctor certifications for medical marijuana opens with the case of Erich Laufer, a Minnesota native who moved to Arkansas to take advantage of our state’s medical marijuana laws. Dr. Dane Flippin of Jonesboro agreed to certify to the state that Laufer has cancer, one of the medical conditions that will qualify him for a state-issued card he can use to purchase medical cannabis when it becomes available, sometime next year.
As it turns out, Flippin also moved to Arkansas because of medical marijuana. Flippin — who did a family practice residency in Jonesboro after getting his medical degree in Memphis and who is a descendant of the Flippin for whom the town is named — closed his family practice in Memphis after 20 years and moved to Arkansas in April to open an office strictly for medical cannabis patients. He sees about 10 a day, he said in an interview today.
Flippin told the Times he was neutral toward cannabis for medical use until he visited California over Thanksgiving last year. He dropped in on a doctor whose practice was near where he was staying and talked to a woman in the office who ran the business side (she was, of course, from Arkansas; isn’t that always the case when you travel?). He said he was impressed with what he heard, and after his own research decided to quit his Memphis practice and locate in Jonesboro.
Flippin said he’d been skeptical of the benefits of medical marijuana, but “after the 50th person” he’d seen told him it helped what nothing else would, he “thought there must be something in this.”
Many of Flippin’s patients have never tried marijuana but have come at the encouragement of a family member “or they’ve come to the end of their rope and are desperate.” He said he’s been told by patients that they’d been able to replace fentanyl — one of the strongest opiates on the market — with cannabis.
Flippin, who may be the only doctor in East Arkansas who has a strictly medical marijuana practice, said his office is the “411” of questions about how patients get certified and what to expect when the dispensaries open. “I tell them that half the people who will work there are going to be clean cut and wear white jackets, and the other half will look like they just stepped off Venice Beach.” And when the clean cut guys can’t answer a customer’s questions, they’ll ask the “guy with the tats.”