Dr. Janice Knox was the first in her immediate family of four doctors to leave traditional medicine. After 35 years of working as an anesthesiologist, she began researching cannabis therapeutics and endocannabinology, a specialty concerned with the study and treatment of the body’s endocannabinoid system.
“How could I be a physician and not be interested in our bodies’ endocannabinoid system?”
She retired from anesthesiology and never looked back.
“I brought the idea to the family and at first, they just looked at me,” said Janice Knox, whose two daughters, Rachel and Jessica, are physicians, as is her husband, David, who has worked as an emergency room doctor for the past 39 years.
“Not me,” said Rachel, 35. “I never questioned the move to cannabis, especially since we’re living in a state [Oregon] where medical cannabis has been legal for almost two decades.”
David still works in the ER but will retire at the end of 2018, the family’s lives took a collective turn when they soon formed the Portland-based American Cannabinoid Clinics and began practicing what Dr. Janice calls “Integrative Cannabinoid Medicine.” The practice combines cannabinoid therapeutics with an evidence-based, lifestyle and functional medicine approach to patient care.
David, who was not present for the in-person interview, told Marijuana.com in a later email that some of their most intriguing cases are their pediatric cancer patients.
“We are seeing shrinkage of tumors, and improved function and quality of life.”
He said that while cannabis healing stories are often put down as mere anecdotes by conventional medicine, David is eager to convert anecdotes into data and provide compelling evidence for the benefits cannabis can bring.
“Cannabis is disrupting the way medicine is prescribed. We want to push that narrative forward, especially in the area of chronic pain,” Janice Knox told Marijuana.com. “I’m from Berkeley. We’re disruptors by nature.”
Knox was born and raised with 14 siblings in the San Francisco Bay area. She attended University of California, Berkeley, then went to medical school at the University of Washington in Seattle during the 1970s, where she met David.
Daughters Rachel and Jessica grew up in Portland, Oregon, then followed in their parents’ footsteps. After high school, Jessica completed her undergraduate studies at Harvard and Rachel attended Duke. Classmates and roommates, the sisters graduated together from Tufts University School of Medicine in 2012, around the same time their mother began researching medicinal cannabis.
“Jessica and I were planning to start a practice together but instead opted to join our parents in cannabis therapeutics,” Rachel said. “We already knew we weren’t going to pursue conventional careers in medicine.”
By 2015, all four Knox family physicians were working together at a time when few physicians were focusing their practices exclusively on medicinal cannabis and research. It wasn’t until 2017 that the Oregon Health Authority issued guidelines to the approximately 1,700 physicians who were recommending medical marijuana.
Although she felt somewhat alone when she started, Janice Knox has confidence in the benefits of therapeutic cannabis and feels the rest of the medical establishment will come around soon enough.
“We still have to muscle our way into conferences,” she said. “With cannabis so available now, it’s essential for doctors to comprehend how to diagnose and treat their patients. Budtenders in dispensaries aren’t versed beyond suggesting one strain or another.”
Janice Knox said her clinic in Portland is currently undergoing a high-tech renovation.
“Our new clinic will be totally interactive, patient-centered and data driven. We’re going to collect as much data as possible and get universities involved to collaborate in research,” said Knox. “Again, we will be disrupting with technology.”
She explained that they will look at every aspect of their patients’ lives from diet, stress levels to genetic makeup.
“Patients will log in on individual screen when they arrive. By the time we see them, we will have analyzed their information. Technology will help us be more personal and avoid having patients sitting in gowns in a cold waiting room for a doctor who comes in for several minutes then walks back out,”Janice Knox explained. “We won’t be looking at computer screens or files we’ve just grabbed from the door.”
Janice Knox said their new high-tech clinic was set up by cutting-edge professionals and will be like none other in the state, or perhaps the entire US.
“We need to understand each individual’s profile and what strains and terpenes work best for their circumstances,” she said.
The family project, with Dr. Jessica, 32, participating by telemedicine from California where she currently lives and practices, will move forward.
“… the toothpaste is out of the tube and won’t be going back in,” said David Knox. “The loosening of regulations to allow more study is inevitable.”