Most Doctors Not Prescribing Marijuana

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

SEPTEMBER 20, 2017

Hey, isn't medical marijuana now legal in many states, including in Massachusetts? And isn't recreational marijuana not far behind? Yes and yes, but that does not mean it is easy to get a prescription.

I am unaware of any of our medical oncologists who are comfortable writing prescriptions for their patients. The reasons range from "It's not nationally legal" to uncertainty about the best uses/doses to a general sense of unease. Let's be clear that marijuana is not the perfect cure for any symptoms that might be bothersome. In my experience through all these years of illegal use by patients, it sometimes helps and sometimes doesn't. I suspect that the efficacy is not so different than that of other, for example, anti-nausea drugs. But, for some people, it is really helpful, and the process should not be so cumbersome.

California was the first state to pass legislation legalizing medical marijuana; that was in 1996, so this has been a long struggle. Cannabis remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug under federal law, meaning it is considered to have a “high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use,” and “a lack of accepted safety.” (21 U.S.C. § 812) .One consequence of the conflict between state and federal law, is that many major health institutions continue to prohibit or frown upon their providers actively advising on or certifying use. This has resulted in cannabis specialists who work outside of institutions, and are not part of the oncology care team. While patients may be able to find access, it is a system that discourages open communication between patients and their doctors.

I know only a few people who have worked through the difficulties to procure medical marijuana at a clinic in the Boston area. Most people who are interested in trying cannabis still use other underground connections. Whatever your views about this may be, I hope that we can agree that, if something is legal, it should be available. If we as a society are still so uncomfortable with cannabis use, it should not be legal.

From Health Day News comes this article:

9 of 10 Docs Unprepared to Prescribe Marijuana 
Although it's becoming more commonplace, medical marijuana is rarely discussed in U.S. medical schools, a new study shows. 
"Medical education needs to catch up to marijuana legislation," said senior author Dr. Laura Jean Bierut, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. 
"Physicians in training need to know the benefits and drawbacks associated with medical marijuana so they know when or if, and to whom, to prescribe the drug," she explained in a school news release. 
Marijuana is now legal -- at least for medical purposes -- in more than half the states in the country, the researchers said. 
Curriculum deans at 101 medical schools completed surveys about marijuana education. Just over two-thirds said their graduates weren't prepared to prescribe medical marijuana. One-quarter said their graduates weren't even able to answer questions about medical marijuana.

Read more on the Health Day website.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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