When Missouri voters put their seal of approval on an initiative aimed at legalizing medical marijuana, they gave birth to a system that has the potential to be one of the best in the country. The passing of Amendment 2 gives “qualified patients” the ability to purchase several ounces of cannabis each month for their respective health conditions and the freedom to cultivate a modest cannabis crop at home just in case that retail well runs dry.
While the measure was put on the ballot to reflect a program that would strictly serve the seriously ill, most Missouri patients could get in on the action if the state’s doctors were willing to play ball. That’s the problem, according to a report from the Kansas City Star. Most of the so-called medical professionals in the Show-Me State do not care that marijuana is no legal for therapeutic use, they still do not have any plans to provide their ailing clientele medical marijuana recommendations.
It’s the same old story that we’ve seen in nearly every other state that has decided to give residents access to medical marijuana. Although most physicians agree that cannabis has some therapeutic potential, they stop short of fully endorsing the herb because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved it. When Amendment 2 made it on the ballot, all of the state’s physician groups, including the Kansas City Medical Society, came out in opposition. It was made clear early on that if medical marijuana were to become legal in Missouri, very few doctors would participate.
Be that as it may, the patients will be showing at their doctor’s office soon to see about getting approved for the program. That you can bet on. Still, this step could prove challenging for some. While state-licensed physicians are considered the gatekeepers to medical cannabis, they are not required by law to write a single certification — no matter how sick and out of options a patient might be. Even dying of cancer will not always guarantee medical marijuana access in Missouri.
“If you follow what’s happened in other states, that’s very typical,” Dr. Joshua Mammen, a cancer surgeon from the Kansas City area, told the news source, adding that he does not plan to write recommendations for cannabis. “Based upon the publicity, individuals will go to their physicians and ask for marijuana, which actually puts physicians in a little bit of a difficult spot because there’s a lack of data to indicate when is a potentially good time, if there is one, to be able to suggest the use of marijuana.”
Medical marijuana is coming to Missouri, like it or not. Amendment 2 will take effect on Dec. 6, which is when thousands of patients are expected to start making appointments with their family doctors to discuss getting that all-important key to the green – the “qualifying patient card.”
The new law allows people with certain conditions to gain immediate access the cannabis, but it also makes it available for almost everyone else, as well. Doctors can recommend it as an alternative for prescription drugs that may cause dependency issues (opioid painkillers) and “any other chronic… medical conditions.” As long as a physician tells a patient it is copacetic to use weed; the state is in no position to argue. So, even if some doctors refuse to discuss medical marijuana with their patients, there will likely be just as many who will. Getting patients into cannabis dispensaries has been a huge source of income for doctors in other medical marijuana states. Of course, some of the state’s medical leaders are worried that this is exactly what might happen.
“The important thing for me is that it doesn’t turn into Venice Beach [California], where you have storefronts that say, ‘Come in and get your marijuana card,'” said Jeff Howell with the Missouri State Medical Association.
Missouri could have as many as 61 cannabis producers and 192 medical marijuana dispensaries by 2020, according to the Springfield News-Leader. Under the law, none of the state’s municipalities can ban marijuana businesses, so patients in all parts of the state should have easy access to the medicine. First, health officials must spend the next few months ironing out the program rules. But by next summer, the state is required to be ready to roll on cultivation licenses, testing facilities and other components. Governor Mike Parson says his administration is committed to getting the state’s new medical marijuana program off the ground in a timely fashion.
“The people of Missouri have voted to adopt Constitutional Amendment 2, approving medical marijuana. As governor, it is my job to ensure successful implementation of the people’s will,” he said in a statement. “We will begin the very detailed process of implementing a process that makes medical marijuana available to qualified patients.”
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