With over a decade of experience, Dr. June Chin has focused on interactive osteopathic medicine for individuals with epilepsy, cancer, and autism. Practicing medicine in California, Dr. Chin has utilized the state’s legalized medical cannabis access by empowering her patients with knowledge about CBD and marijuana’s benefits.
Dr. Chin recently shared an exclusive interview with The Fresh Toast on where cannabis is going and what health practitioners should know. When asked why she was such an advocate for cannabis, Dr. Chin shared that her personal pain journey led her to advocate not just for patients, but for doctors to get information firsthand. Here is her story.
“As a teenager, I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a progressive type of arthritis that affects the spine, pelvis, hips, and back and causes extreme stiffness and nerve pain.
“I spent my younger years trying conventional treatments — epidurals, narcotics, muscle relaxants, acupuncture, physical therapy — but the pain was unrelenting. By the time I got to medical school in San Francisco, I was having difficulty standing for long periods in the operating room. One of the attending physicians saw this and asked me about it. I told him I had AS but that I couldn’t take the meds I needed for relief while doing rounds or while attending a four-hour hip-replacement surgery because they made me drowsy and foggy.
“Here I was in a hospital surrounded by great medical minds, but I was disheartened to find nothing could help my condition. The attending physician and my mentor Dr. Levine pulled me aside and handed me a bottle containing a tincture. ‘This is marijuana,’ he told me, ‘but it won’t make you high.’
“He didn’t call it CBD oil. He just said it was a different type of cannabis plant. I was mortified but desperate. As a medical student, training to be a doctor, my first thought was, “You are offering me pot? You want to make me a drug addict?” I grew up in the Bronx, where there was a huge social stigma around marijuana. Kids that smoked weed were either the dropouts or involved in gangs. I also grew up in a very traditional Chinese household. My parents believed in reefer madness — weed led to psychosis and schizophrenia!
“The little brown dropper bottle Dr. Levine handed me smelled like a combination of alcohol, wet dog, and grass, and I didn’t know what to think. To my amazement, the tincture worked very well. The pain and inflammation of my arthritis decreased dramatically, my AS stopped progressing, and my health improved.
“Even though California legalized medical cannabis in 1996, I didn’t dare tell anyone I was using it. I was a young physician and didn’t want to jeopardize my career. But once I got my health back, I decided to learn more about cannabis and how it helps manage pain and improve people’s overall health and wellness.
“Having suffered in pain for so long, I know what it feels like to say to your doctor, ‘I’ve tried everything, and nothing has helped.’
“I have been helping patients integrate medical cannabis into their health and wellness for over a decade. Cannabis changed the trajectory of my life. I would not have been able to finish medical school and become a doctor had it not been for cannabis treatment. I had an educational advantage in doing my medical school training in California. California legalized medical cannabis in 1996. I was in the middle of a switch box and was able to engineer my circumstances to learn holistic, integrative cannabis medicine.”
Dr. Chin has seen firsthand just how much medical cannabis can benefit patients. A Bronx native, who moved back to New York several years ago, Dr. Chin is now registered with the New York State Medical Cannabis Program. She is currently treating both children and adults in New York and is with AskCMD.com, a personalized cannabis service.