Vidalia doctor to host cannabis conference Nov. 11 at the Natchez Convention Center

Published 7:30 am Saturday, November 5, 2022

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NATCHEZ — An up-and-coming consultancy group in the medical cannabis industry is hosting a conference Friday, Nov. 11, at the Natchez convention center for anyone interested in becoming a part of the industry or is just curious about it.

Coles Creek Cannabis LLC is hosting two sessions at the Southwest Mississippi Cannabis Conference, one from 2:30 to 4 p.m. for healthcare providers who are interested, or not interested, in being a cannabis prescriber and another from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for anyone else interested in the industry.

Dr. Rus Fairbanks of Natchez practices orthopedic surgery and pain management at Riverpark Medical Center in Vidalia, Louisiana, but has another profession in the works. He said he has been studying the cannabis industry for half a decade and is offering his experience as a certified Colorado compliance officer to provide turnkey consulting services to anyone looking to make it in the cannabis industry while remaining in compliance with state regulatory laws.

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“Our first goal is to teach other providers how to prescribe (recommend) cannabis,” Fairbanks said. “We want them to learn the pharmacological properties of the medication and how to use them effectively in their practice. I can say from my experience that it isn’t perfect. About two-thirds of patients have a satisfactory response and the effects are durable—they tend to hold up over time in helping them with their human suffering. It’s not a cure-all for anything. We’re just learning how to utilize it and tap into this knowledge.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health does not list practitioners who are licensed to prescribe medical cannabis but asks that they voluntarily list themselves.

In Adams County, however, Fairbanks said he is not aware of any physicians who will be prescribing medical cannabis.

Fairbanks said he wants to break the stigma about medical cannabis.

“I was one of the early prescribers and I used it as an adjunct to augment the effects of opioids,” he said. “I see people from all over Louisiana and have this very large practice and in maybe five percent of our practice, we’ve learned to utilize therapeutic cannabis.”

The goal of Coles Creek Cannabis, which began building its operation about six months ago, is to build a Natchez-based laboratory testing facility and to provide consultancy services to all levels of the industry from cultivation, laboratories, transportation services, processing services and dispensaries. Coles Creek is partnering with Harvard Law School graduate Robert Carp, a frequent speaker nationwide on the subject of marijuana business operations and compliance, Fairbanks said.

In a press conference last week, state health officials said every one of the 138 registered dispensaries at the time—as of Friday there were 139 listed in Mississippi, including two in Natchez—all have had some compliance issues with varying levels of success with meeting the requirements.

Mississippi Today reported the state’s largest cultivator, Mockingbird Cannabis LLC in Raymond, had been ordered to destroy in the neighborhood of $1 million worth of product—roughly 5,000 plants—because they did not follow state growing and security regulations.

This includes a failure to follow the state’s “seed to sale” tracking system, required to prevent diversion.

Not to discourage those wanting to enter the cannabis industry, Kris Jones Adcock, Mississippi Medical Cannabis Program director for the Health Department, said the state encourages compliance by conducting pop-up visits, all of which have been “an education opportunity” for those in the industry about their compliance issues.

“Federal opioid laws are so restrictive that if you don’t do everything just perfectly that when they audit you—and they do audit you—you get taken out like that million-dollar pot grow in Jackson did,” Fairbanks said. “We come suited for compliance professionally. … We’re infrastructure providers and offer turnkey services. If someone wants to put in a 1,000-square-foot grow, we know what the law says about how to do that and how to set it up properly, how to cultivate it and how to interface with the system. We would be able to show people who know nothing about it how to get their operation up and running.”