Dr. Ethan Russo — a top medical marijuana researcher who lives and works on Vashon Island, Washington — gave a lecture earlier this month during a Vashon Island Marijuana Entrepreneurs Association (VIMEA) meeting. For nearly 20 years, Dr. Russo has been largely silent on his involvement with cannabis research. Considering recent major changes in the political climate, however, he has now opened up to his local community.
“I’ve been laboring in obscurity, and all of a sudden things have exploded in terms of interest,” he said.
The lecture’s audience was a collection of both locals and visitors to the island, many of whom were medical cannabis patients and were already familiar with his work.
Dr. Russo spoke at length about the hard science behind his research, which has lately pursued a deeper investigation of the endocannabinoid system — a biological system inside the human body that interacts directly with the many different cannabinoids present in marijuana. This system can affect several key physiological functions, such as metabolism and inflammation.
While practicing as a neurologist in Montana, Dr. Russo began to worry that certain herbal treatments might replace the manufactured and potentially dangerous medicine he would often prescribe: “It began to dawn on me that I was giving increasingly toxic drugs to patients who sometimes had less and less benefit,” he explained. He published the “Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs” in 2000, documenting how certain common herbs could be used in treatment for certain psychological disorders.
Currently, Dr. Russo is the medical director of Phytecs, a Los Angeles company that produces cannabis-based medicines.
Photo Credit: Coleen Whitfield