Plant Medicine Expo's Seth Ginsberg on the mainstreaming of medical marijuana

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Yesterday, we heard from Law & Order Special Victims Unit star Richard Belzer about his participation in this weekend's Plant Medicine Expo and Healthcare Provider Conference. Belzer stressed that the event's focus would be on the medical uses of marijuana, not the weed lifestyle -- and expo organizer Seth Ginsberg, who has a more general health-care background, sounds the same notes. Ginsberg is the president of New York-based TGI Healthworks, a health-care marketing firm founded in 1999. According to him, "We're the experts in educating people with chronic illnesses, the providers who care for them and their doctors about ways they can stay healthy with their chronic disease. We look at the treatment landscape for these various illnesses and how to improve the doctor-patient relationship."

Examples include a Lilly-sponsored nerve-pain event in Detroit and a presentation in Atlanta on the topic of ulcerative colitis.

This time around, however, a form of treatment -- medical marijuana -- will be front and center, as opposed to a specific ailment. And Ginsberg feels that treating MMJ in the same way his firm's dealt with more mainstream treatments is appropriate.

"We feel strongly about transferring the knowledge we've gained in over a decade to an industry that could really benefit from improvement in a lot of areas, but primarily knowledge and understanding. We want to create an environment that will allow these patients and their families, as well as their providers, to come together that's safe, professional and will allow them to share their experiences and get their questions answered from experts around the world who have those answers."

Examples of participants in the part of the program targeted at health-care providers include Dr. Donald Abrams, the director of clinical programs at the Osher Center for Inegrative Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center at Mount Zion, who'll helm a session entitled "Cannabis in Pain and Palliative Care," and Diane Hoffman, the Law and Health Program Director at the University of Maryland School of Law. Her seminar is dubbed, "The Legal Landscape for Medical Marijuana: What Physicians Should Know."

Hoffman "will be providing a national perspective on the policy and legal landscape as it relates to here in Colorado, as well as how it fits into the broader spectrum -- where Colorado stands in terms of the national landscape," Ginsberg says. "And we'll have dozens of other speakers who will engage patients, families, and providers -- not only physicians, but physician assistants, nutritionists, wellness experts, chiropractors. We're seeking to cast the widest net of health-care providers possible to begin answering a lot of questions people have. It's a way to say to the professional community, 'You know all the controversy about medical marijuana. Now here are the facts.'"

And then, of course, there's the Belzer debate, "Medical Marijuana and the Colorado Amendment: What's Right For You?" Belzer, who survived a case of testicular cancer in 1984, is an outspoken advocate for MMJ use, declaring it a "moral issue." But Ginsberg, an arthritis patient from age thirteen, doesn't see it as his role to advocate.

"I can't tell you that marijuana will help post-traumatic-stress disorder or cancer or anything else," he says. "We don't take a position on that specifically. Instead, we're providing a forum for a discussion with the experts to understand more about the adjunct application of this therapy, which has been around for a long time, and integrating it into a more structured medical conversation, which we believe is exactly where it needs to be right now.

"To the public, we are targeting the chronically ill, whether they're cancer patients, chronic-pain patients, insomniacs, people with anxiety. Anecdotally, there are dozens and dozens of applications if you have any of those conditions and want to learn how to live better with it."

Along the way, Ginsberg wants Plant Medicine Expo to look and feel like any of his company's other conferences -- except that this time around, the subject is medical marijuana.

"This is not a stoner convention," he points out. "This is a legitimate conversation, where people from many backgrounds, and with many chronic illnesses, will be able to learn more about medical marijuana."

The expo takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 25 and 26 at the Downtown Denver Sheraton. To learn more about registration and costs for seminars aimed at patients and health-care providers alike, click here.

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