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Dr. Phil Leveque, WWII Hero & Cannabis Warrior Turns 92Bonnie King Salem-News.com
Standing up for others has always been something "Doc" does best.
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - “I have been studying the medical use of marijuana since 1950 and I am very proud of the fact that I essentially introduced medical marijuana to the state of Oregon,” said Dr. Phil Leveque.
Now, with so many proactive changes going on throughout the United States in regard to rational marijuana laws, Dr. Leveque says he feels like people are finally catching up.
He spoke to Amy Frazier from KOIN 6 on Tuesday, and she learned about a man who has dedicated his life to helping others even in the face of controversy.
When she asked him how he wants to be remembered, he said with a smile, “Pot Doc.” Nothing could be more “right”.
Dr. Phil Leveque is a well-known doctor, though some may not recognize his notoriety as hot a topic as it once was. The doctor who helped legalize medical marijuana in the state of Oregon is now witnessing the consequence of his endeavors.
“Finally, there are dispensaries so patients can access their medicine,” says Leveque. “That was a real problem for a long time. And they’ve added important conditions, like Alzheimer’s rage, and PTSD to Oregon’s law. This is all real progress in taking care of people.”
He just celebrated his 92nd birthday with friends and family, with chocolate covered strawberries and carrot cake, topped off with Doc’s colorful stories causing unrestrained laughter from our slightly-delinquent crowd. He is in a Portland rehab facility, dealing with several physical issues and is under hospice care; he’s as much a fighter as ever.
Though federal prohibition of marijuana is still a major factor for all Americans, Oregonians have taken the high road, and passed an initiative allowing the adult use of marijuana recreationally. It goes into effect on July 1.
Though it is not a medical choice, Dr. Leveque is in agreement that this is great news for Oregonians.
“Finally, people over 21 can use it without fear, instead of the very unhealthy options that have been the only option since 1938. Alcohol kills. Marijuana does not. Yes, I am very happy to see this in my lifetime.”
Leveque Walks the Walk
He came from hearty stock.
His father was a Construction Superintendent for about 50 sawmills in the Pacific Northwest. Between 5 and 12 years old, his family lived in Klamath Falls, Oregon, a pure log and sawmill town. Then they moved to Hood River, where he enjoyed a healthy, happy childhood, and was a great student.
He was studying chemistry at the University of Oregon when WWII was underway, and the draft board deterred his service in exchange for continuing his education in that field. He finished his undergraduate studies early, and decided to volunteer for the war.
"I volunteered for the Army in May 1944. I thought they could use a good chemist, but I was wrong. Instead, I was dragooned into being a Battalion scout, point man and forward observer, a real Dogface," he said.
Though he had been specially trained in chemical warfare, he was sent to the Infantry to become a scout - the most dangerous job in the war, serving under the infamous General George Patton.
As a Scout, he walked from Luxembourg to Czechoslovakia mostly under fire. When crossing the Rhine River, they lost 150 men from the platoon, in one day. Another day, they lost 20 men of a thirty man platoon who charged a German machine gun. War is full of losses.
A better story is the day he captured 26 Nazi officers almost single-handedly! The officers were holding a meeting inside a commandeered French house with their weapons lined up at the front door. Leveque and another soldier came upon them, and literally convinced them to give themselves up. The two soldiers marched the Germans back to camp amid real shock and awe.
After the war, he was sent to Eisenhower's Headquarters to be a statistician in Public Health. He was severely injured in a car accident shortly after returning to the United States, and his neck was broken. He was told he would never walk again, but he spent many months in traction, and eventually did walk, indeed- dance!.
Though suffering from chronic pain, he did not let it stop him from moving on with his life. He and his wife, Eve, a nurse, had five children who traveled the globe with them.
The esteemed Doctor continued his education after the war, and holds five academic degrees in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Osteopathy.
He spent the next 25 years as a professor, teaching in 10 different colleges and universities in the U.S., and spending two years teaching in Africa through the University of London. He personally trained the first doctors in Tanzania.
"I taught in Africa for two years. My students were from a dozen different African tribes as well as Pakistan and India. When I left I was presented with a Chief's cane and an invitation to return," Leveque recalled.
Leveque was one of Oregon's first toxicologists and has served as an expert witness in more than 400 cases.
"I won about 80% of my cases and angered a lot of lawyers in the process," he laughed. "Pretty good for a Hood River farm boy!"
Oregon Voters Pass Marijuana for Medical Purposes
A long-time friend of Leveque’s, Alfred Hayward said, “He is passionately patriotic veteran and an old-school doctor who is more interested in helping others than helping himself.” He’s right on the money.
Most Oregonians have known Dr. Leveque for years as “Pot Doc”, a name he’s proud to wear. Dr. Leveque ("Doc") was instrumental in the creation of the Oregon law that allows the use of Medical Marijuana in the late 1990's. The law went into effect in 1999.
Dr. Phil Leveque has been a leading advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana since the beginning. In the first few years after the voters said yes to medical use, Dr. Leveque signed over 50% of the patient applications.
Very few doctors were brave enough to put their pen to paper, but he knew that the natural medicine helped people and had no negative health consequences. People would travel hours to visit Leveque at his office in Molalla, Oregon. He was a godsend.
Because he had a unique understanding of the effects of PTSD, he specialized in treating Veterans during his years as a doctor in Molalla, Oregon. Many of them attribute their success in overcoming hard drug and alcohol addiction to his help and support.
“I salute you; I was once a patient of yours Sir,” said Don Land. “Thank you for the courage to fight the good fight that has led me to here and now. Without that inspiration and tough love from you I would not be alive today.”
“He is my Hero...and always has been. Back when PTSD was just a laughable excuse, he seen me. I had come to him out of desperation, when the Oregon D.V.A. failed me. His grit and his courage more than anything renewed me and gave me a purpose in my life.
“He above all others in this Cannabis Movement is owed a debt of gratitude that should be immortalized,” said Land.
They Didn’t Stop The Movement
His popularity also made him a target. The medical board didn’t know how to react to the new law, and opted to turn on Dr. Leveque.
“Four other doctors in Oregon complained that I was “stealing their patients and doping them up,” Leveque said, which was insulting for a man who had dedicated his life to helping.
“They had hopes of scaring other doctors away from signing medical marijuana applications.” It didn’t work.
In 2004, the medical board succeeded in taking away his license. His removal left 5,000 patients in a lurch, and some had a hard time finding another doctor, but it did not stop the increasing numbers of sick and ill people seeking medical marijuana for relief.
“They tried to frighten every other doctor in Oregon by revoking my license, but that didn’t work, because the other doctor says, ‘they’re spending all their time harassing Dr. Leveque, they’re going to leave us alone,’ and that’s what happened,” explained Leveque.
Being deemed a “danger” by the Oregonian has been a joke for a decade. In fact, it’s more a term of endearment by those closest to him. “It’s true,” Leveque jokes, “I’m known by my friends as the most dangerous man in Oregon.”
But regarding the loss of his ability to practice medicine….Was it worth it?
“You bet,” he said with conviction. “If I hadn't done it, nobody would have.”
True. We needed an experienced scout to lead us.
Thank you, Dr. Leveque. From the thousands of people you’ve helped, and innumerable lives you’ve touched. We couldn’t have done this without you.
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