In the marijuana movement, there are visionary and prophets that have been shouting about the many benefits of cannabis and the ills of prohibition for decades. If there were a “Marijuana Mount Rushmore,” most people would put the late Jack Herer up there first and foremost. These visionary prophets aren’t necessarily right about everything and their tactics may not be always the very most effective (particularly with the gift of hindsight), however, someone has to be brave and push the envelope to move a cause forward. One of Oregon’s visionary prophets is Dr. Phillip Leveque, a World War II veteran who went on to be one of Oregon’s most prolific medical marijuana doctors. It is safe to say that the Oregon cannabis community wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for Dr. Leveque standing up for the medical benefits of cannabis and his willingness to push the envelope for patients’ rights.
I first met Dr. Leveque several years ago when we were both speaking at a Portland Hempstalk festival where he was wearing a shirt that read “Most Dangerous Man in Oregon.” Coincidentally, Dr. Leveque gave the preceding speech right before Jack Herer suffered a heart attack at the 2009 Portland Hempstalk. Dr. Leveque stated that Herer gave a real “Hell-raiser” of a speech that year. Leveque was dubbed the “Most Dangerous Man in Oregon” after The Oregonian and the Oregon Medical Board deemed him a danger to his patients. Dr. Leveque was eventually stripped of his medical license for violations that included signing authorization forms for patients that he didn’t see in person, although the doctor would contend that he only signed for qualified patients and he had patients’ livelihood in mind when he didn’t want to force them to travel to see him in person, many of whom it have had to have traveled several hours across the state.
Dr. Leveque, who just turned 92 years of age, first started studying the pharmacology of cannabis in 1950, just a few years home from the World War II battlefield. At that time, Dr. Leveque explained to me that he was a skeptic about medical cannabis because the way it was portrayed in medical books at the time (the initial skepticism of the medical benefits of cannabis is something the doctor and I have in common). The doctor kept an open mind and eventually became educated about cannabis’ medical properties. As a war veteran he suffered from post-traumatic stress, particularly from reliving the horror of the day that his combat unit lost 150 soldiers crossing the Rhine River. Of course, Dr. Leveque was ahead of his time in understanding the ability of cannabis to help alleviate post-traumatic stress as Oregon didn’t approve of post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition in 2013.
When I saw a KOIN 6 news report that Dr. Leveque was currently in hospice care, I reached out to his dear friend, Bonnie King of Salem-News.com, and asked if there was any way that I could see him to pay my respects. I was honored to get word back that the doctor would see me. It was great to spend some time with him, see that he still has a good sense of humor despite his pain and health issues and to have the opportunity to thank him on behalf of all Oregon cannabis law reform advocates as so many people have shared publicly and privately with me that they want to send their love and appreciation to the doctor.
While I have been given lots of credit for the success of Measure 91 and finally legalizing cannabis in Oregon, I will always remind people that legalization was decades in the making and the accomplishment of many, many people. To show my gratitude towards Dr. Leveque, I left him with my notes from my Measure 91 victory speech. He thanked me and wanted to make sure that the notes would be preserved for historical purposes.
We need our prophets like Dr. Leveque and Jack Herer trail blazing a path for all of us to follow. They may support different measures or be overzealous at times in the minds of many, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are heroes to the movement and that there wouldn’t be medical marijuana states or full legalization states without them. I tend to be a moderate compromiser that negotiates a path between the prophets, activists, politicians, professionals and voters, but I know that many people have their roles to fulfill and I will always appreciate those that have helped us get to a more humane cannabis policy. I will always appreciate, Dr. Leveque and I hope that future generations of Oregonians don’t take marijuana legalization for granted and forget the sacrifices that Dr. Leveque and others have made for the cannabis community.
A heartfelt thanks to Bonnie King of Salem-News.com for arranging my visit with Dr. Leveque. Please check out her coverage of this meeting and all things related to the Oregon cannabis community. Below are a couple of pictures that were snapped from our visit.