One of the newest medical offices in the City of Clovis was opened by a doctor who spent 31 years prescribing pharmaceuticals in the ER — and now issues medical marijuana cards to ease patients’ pain and suffering.
Dr. Douglas Kerr opened 420 Canicare in the outskirts of Old Town in April and said he has been pleasantly surprised that his preconceptions “turned out not to be true in a really neat way.”
For one, the people seeking medical marijuana cards are not “stoners on the couch who don’t care about anything,” Kerr said. “It’s people who are actually brighter than average and want to have more say in their healthcare.”
The average age of Kerr’s patients is 45; half of them are women, he said. His most recent patients have been in their 90s, including one 99-year-old woman.
Some of his patients come on their own; others are referred by other physicians, Kerr said.
“People are coming to see me here for the same reasons they came to see me in the ER,” said Kerr, who worked in emergency departments as far north as Paradise and as far south as Porterville during his three-decade career. “A lot of it is pain related issues: back pain, neck pain, migraine headaches; stress issues, anxiety, depression, seizures, cancer patients who are having side effects from radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments. They’re looking for an alternative to what’s being presented to them in a doctor’s office.”
Kerr spends about 30 minutes with each patient, going over a very detailed health history and then conducting a brief exam.
If the patient has a medical condition that California recognizes for the use of medical marijuana, Kerr issues a document that identifies him or her as a medical marijuana patient and allows a dispensary to legally sell marijuana to them.
Those ailments run the gamut from anorexia to arthritis to glaucoma to seizures.
People are coming to see me here for the same reasons they came to see me in the ER.”
Dr. Douglas Kerr
“Most of my patients are here to use cannabis because they don’t want to take opiates, they don’t want to take benzodiazepines for anxiety, they don’t want to take the Paxil and Zoloft for depression,” Kerr said. “The patients that are in here are largely more independent, a little more well read and a little more in tune with their bodies and what they put in it. They’re less likely to do what someone suggested if it doesn’t seem quite right for them.”
Kerr discusses his recommendations with patients as to which products to use to best relieve their symptoms.
“It’s a lot more complicated than it used to be when I was going to Chico State way back in the day,” Kerr said. “Back then you had the option of rolling it up in a marijuana cigarette or put it in a pipe or a bong. Nowadays there are oils, vapes, edibles, product that has no THC in it. Patients are able to choose with or without THC, depending on the particular problem they’re having. Most of the patients find their own path. They experiment and see what works for them.”
Kerr is well aware of the controversy surrounding medical marijuana, but said he didn’t have any trouble opening his practice in town. It’s nestled in an office complex at the corner of Pollasky Avenue and 1st Street.
“There was no hint of disapproval or obstruction at any level,” he said. “I think there was some concern with if I’m going to be dispensing here. Once they realized that wasn’t going to happen, they didn’t seem to have any issues at all.”
Several dispensaries exist in the Fresno-Clovis area, but they are all delivery services, Kerr said, adding the nearest storefront is in Goshen.
While a handful of doctors in Fresno issue medical marijuana cards, Kerr is the only one doing so in Clovis, he said.
“To be away from the emergency room and be in here ... It’s just joyful,” Kerr said. “People are in here with a need and I am able to fulfill that. I love this. I’m tickled pink about this.”
In his office’s first month, Kerr and his staff saw about five patients per week. This month, he saw about 25 patients per week.
People from all walks of life come into 420 Canicare, including lawyers, nurses, pharmacists, educators and people who work in retail, Kerr said.
“Part of the interview is a discussion of work and what would happen if you did test positive and under what circumstances would your employer ask you to drug test,” Kerr said. “It’s a risk/benefit thing.”
For many patients, the benefits outweigh the risks, Kerr said. One of his patients became addicted to opiates following a motorcycle accident.
“So he went into rehab and got of the opiates, but the pain didn’t go away. Marijuana relieved his pain,” Kerr said. “To me, that’s a great success because this is a guy who wound up in the ICU with liver failure because he was taking so much Norco that the Tylenol just about killed his liver.”
Another patient has had a lifelong seizure disorder and has tried every seizure medication on the market under the care of a brilliant neurologist, Kerr said.
After a seizure, the patient would be confused and uncommunicative for an entire day, and he was experiencing about 10 seizures per month, Kerr explained.
“The patient received his medicinal marijuana documentation about two months ago and has not had a seizure since,” he said. “When you think about what a gift it is for this guy — we just gave him and his family 10 days a month back.”
420 Canicare, Dr. Douglas Kerr
106 Pollasky Ave., Clovis