ROCKINGHAM — Medical marijuana advocate Perry Parks has been chosen to speak at a symposium on the subject in Charlotte next weekend.
Parks was tapped to participate in a seminar by Cannabis Professional University, a Florida-based organization that “helps advance the (cannabis) industry with responsibility,” according to its website.
“I’m honored,” Parks said about the opportunity to speak, calling it a “great challenge.”
“I have been fortunate to be put in places where my God-given talent is recognized,” he said.
Parks believes his calling is to a higher power and he strives to seek the truth. That’s one of the reasons he said he’s gone from “begging for the use of medical cannabis” to demanding a change.
Parks — executive director of the North Carolina Cannabis Patients network and a member of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access— is a U.S. Army and National Guard veteran who uses cannabis to treat chronic pain.
“His dedication to the cause of responsible legalization and regulation, coupled with his efforts for vets with PTSD, mirrored much of the core beliefs of Cannabis Professional University,” said organizer Nicholas Elkins. “Naturally, he seemed like a good fit for CPU.”
Parks said that CPU is “well-intentioned and urgently needed…to dispel the propaganda that created such a fear of anything dealing with marijuana.”
He said the health community has lost the opportunity to treat many diseases because of prohibition.
“The population that would benefit most is the population that was most scared by the government propaganda,” he said. “People will be horrified when they see the damage and injustice done during the War on Drugs.”
Parks said he will be mainly talking about veterans’ issues and “the unfairness of it all” and about how the “geographical distribution of medical treatment is based on law, not medical necessity or medical availability.”
He lamented the fact that a service member returning from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder can use cannabis for treatment in one of the states where it is legal, but not in states like North Carolina, where it isn’t.
“Right now they’re at a dead end treating PTSD,” he said. “If you make a law denying it, how do you find out it works?”
Parks said he sometimes sits back and thinks about “how phony this battle is,” but he remains optimistic.
“I trust, in the end, we’ll succeed in this whole task,” he said. “Because it’s based on truth.”
Elkins said Parks will also be speaking at other events across the Southeast.
Asheville attorney Ben Scales is another North Carolinian slated for the Aug. 3 seminar in the Queen City.
Scales is currently representing two North Carolina activists — Todd Stimson and Robert Dorr — in cases regarding growing cannabis for medical reasons. He is also running for district attorney in Buncombe County.
Stimson, owner of Blue Ridge Medical Cannabis Research Corp. in Fletcher, will also be a speaker in Charlotte.
The western North Carolina activist just wrapped up a walking tour, with other activists, from Asheville to Raleigh—carrying a fake cannabis plant—in support of House Bill 1161. The bill, if passed, would leave the decision of the use of medical cannabis in this state up to the voters.
Elkins said Stimson will be speaking on what the industry could bring to North Carolina.
“This guy’s a pioneer,” he said. “He’s one of the first people in North Carolina to take patient relationship seriously.”
Stimson’s home was raided last July and he is facing several felony charges. He believed he was acting aboveboard after obtaining an art of healing certificate from the state for several years in a row, in addition to purchasing tax stamps for his crop.
“We prefer to feature a blend of local and national speakers,” Elkins said. “So depending on our location, some speakers may change.”
Other speakers for the event include the president of East Tennessee NORML, an accountant specializing in the medical cannabis field and two representatives from a medical cannabis dispensary in Washington, D.C.
There are two other CPU events scheduled for the Tar Heel State: Oct. 4 in Greenville and Oct. 5 in Raleigh. An event scheduled for Aug. 2 in Asheville was postponed to focus on the seminar in Charlotte.
“NCCPN was instrumental in putting North Carolina on our radar for sure, as was Todd Stimson and his organization,” Elkins said. “We helped sponsor their march from Asheville to Raleigh to raise awareness for cannabis reform and patients’ rights.”
The event will be held at the Sheraton Charlotte Airport Hotel, Sunday, Aug. 3 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
As of Friday afternoon, Elkins said there were 73 tickets still available. Tickets are $279 each, with 15 percent of the proceeds going toward three charities: The Cannamoms, The Wounded Warrior Project, and N.C. Freedom Fighters.
“The purpose of our events is to provide a platform for local experts, patients, researchers, and those working in state-compliant cannabis businesses to connect with and educate those who are interested in getting involved in the cannabis industry,” Elkins said. “That way, North Carolinians can formulate their own plans effectively and be successful in their ‘cannabusiness’ endeavors.”
Elkins said CPU focuses on state compliance and promoting the industry with responsibility.
Cannabis Professional University was founded by Elkins and his father, Steve. Both are cancer survivors.
“Dad had prostate cancer in 2005,” Elkins said. “I had Stage 2 testicular cancer in 2001. After numerous surgeries, weeks in treatment and lots of prayer, we are both now cancer-free.”
Elkins said he used cannabis throughout his treatment.
“After a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection I was on morphine for pain,” he said. “The side effects were worse than the 72 staples in my stomach.”
He said his girlfriend at the time — now his wife — bought “The Marijuana Cookbook” and started cooking for him since the staples and incision made smoking too painful.
Elkins said medical cannabis was not a legal option in Missouri when he was going through his treatment.
“I hated the idea that I could get morphine from the doctor, which didn’t really help, and that was OK,” he said. “But if my girlfriend got the one thing that did seem to work, she could be arrested. It made no sense.”
Since moving to Florida, Elkins said he has had three precancerous moles removed in the past two years.
“If they should develop into melanoma, I will refuse chemo and apply Rick Simpson Oils instead,” he said.
Elkins said the series of symposiums could be called “a tour of sorts…a tour for the cure. “
“Having met hundreds of patients who could benefit from medical cannabis,” he said, “it’s a necessary tour.”
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.