Cannabis Doctor-Certifying Patients for Medicinal Cannabis

by Veronica Castillo

Meet Dr. Troy Alexander

Dr. Troy Alexander is the Chief Doctor and Founder of Higher-Level Healthcare in Chicago, Illinois. She was also one of my sponsors for my tribute to Cannabis in April. She is one of few fighting for the people in southern Chicago. 

It wasn’t that long ago that Dr. Alexander didn’t support Cannabis:

Initially in my practice, as a primary care physician for a large corporation in an underserved community, I was not a supporter of cannabis. I believed all the stereotypes regarding cannabis use and was not informed of its health benefits.

A change came when she saw a consistent flow of patients asking her about medicinal cannabis. “I realized that it would be beneficial for me to try to learn as much as I could about the plant. Once I began to read anecdotal evidence about the benefits, I began to advocate for all forms of cannabis in my practice.”

Dr. Alexander was impacted by the war on drugs by having an incarcerated parent, and feels an obligation to her community.

Those that want plant healing over opioid healing, those that visit doctors that won’t discuss Cannabis but will prescribe opioids. 

Hear More from Dr. Troy Alexander

Interview slightly edited for clarity.

You are a black woman M.D, in Cannabis, I admire it! What was the journey into launching your clinic like?

It was scary! In 2017, I became curious as I started to hear more commercials on the radio and acquaintances talk about obtaining medical cards. So, I went to a seminar hosted by white doctors with a room full of white people. I began to ask myself why there were not more Black people in this space. 

Most people know how the war on drugs affected Black and brown communities disproportionately, but at the time, it was still not being discussed as often as it should have been. I decided that I had to become a part of the medical cannabis community to advocate for people that looked like me.

Around this same time, I was laid off from my job and was interviewing for another position working with geriatric patients. I made it a point at the interview to talk about Cannabis and my goals start my own “cannabusiness” certifying patients to get a medical Cannabis card in Illinois. 

The company was supportive and excited about my entrepreneurial ambitions. They even told me how they could help me sublease office space to help get me started. It would be another 6 months until I officially started seeing patients. While I planned the start of my business, I studied, went to more seminars and conferences, and met as many people as I could in the Cannabis industry. 

Unfortunately, as a Black woman, I was still discriminated against by having threats of police called on me while seeing patients and having my documents and promotional materials destroyed at the location where I was subleasing. There were many times that I thought I should quit and “stick to what I know”. 

But anytime my fear became too great, there was always a patient that told me how appreciative they were for me providing an informative and compassionate session during the process of obtaining a medical card. I saw my first patient Feb 2018 and have successfully helped over 200 patients obtain medical Cannabis cards.

From both a personal and professional perspective; why do you support and advocate for medical Cannabis?

From a professional perspective, I have had patients whose lives changed drastically after starting to consume cannabis on a regular basis. People have gone from having multiple migraines a day to weeks without a single headache. There are seniors over the age of 70, looking for a more natural way to relieve chronic aches and pains. Now they are able to enjoy retirement again and participate in activities that bring them joy. 

Personally, it has allowed me to have a more mindful life. I began consuming cannabis occasionally, mostly recreational, after being diagnosed with PTSD. As I began to learn more about the endocannabinoid system, the biological system that helps keep cellular balance, I learned to micro dose my cannabis. By consuming both THC and CBD, Cannabis has helped me especially with work related stress and pressures. It also helps remind me to breathe, and if I happen to have a joint when I remember to take a deep breath, it’s even better.

There are so many future doctors wanting to get into Cannabis, any advice for them?

Become an advocate for your patients that are interested in consuming cannabis. Many healthcare systems around the country do not allow providers to certify patients with conditions that qualify them for a medical cannabis card. 

As a result, many patients do not tell their healthcare provider about their cannabis use for fear of judgement. Just like healthcare providers are encouraged to discuss the risk of alcohol or prescribed narcotics, Cannabis needs to be included in these conversations. 

Learn about how THC and CBD affect the body in the various consumption methods. Understand how tolerance can be affected by medications that your patients are taking. Remember, Cannabis is medicine and it should be treated as such. Healthcare professionals can help to change that narrative.”