Although medical marijuana is becoming increasing more popular in the United States, the true gatekeepers of these programs — the physicians — are still confused about how to incorporate cannabis medicine into their practices because they say there is not enough credible information available to make them comfortable discussing it with their patients.
A recent report from Kaiser Health News (KHN) finds that some doctors in medical marijuana states, especially those who have been in the business of keeping people out of the grave for the past several decades, remain confused about how to recommend cannabis to their patients as a therapeutic alternative because it is a subject that was never covered as part of the curriculum in medical school.
Dr. Jean Antonucci, a family practitioner in the Western Mountains of Maine, recently told KHN that she teeters on the heavy side cluelessness with respect to medical marijuana — legal in the state for around 17 years — specifically when it comes to the concept of assigning patients the appropriate dosage, or whether to tell them to smoke it, eat it, or use a vaporizer — all crucial elements of the treatment process that is currently unavailable to the average medical professional.
“It’s very difficult to support patients but not know what you’re saying,” Dr. Antonucci said.
Fortunately, while most physicians out there did not likely learn much about cannabis in medical school — other than it made them grin a lot and hungry as hell — an increasing number of states, including New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, have passed medical marijuana legislation that comes with a mandatory training course intended to ensure the healthcare community is knowledgeable on what it means to be involved with marijuana. Yet even after obtaining a reasonable understanding of the herb, many doctors report that they are still uneasy about certifying their patients for the program because they do not full understand its health benefits and hazards.
“We just don’t know what we don’t know. And that’s a concern,” said Wanda Filer, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
For the most part, however, the physicians vowing to stay away from medical marijuana appear to be only doing so because her or she fears the wrath of the federal government. That’s because even with half the states in the nation giving the green light to a comprehensive medical marijuana program, Uncle Sam refuses to consider the herb as having any medicinal benefit. In fact, just last week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration blew an opportunity to downgrade the Schedule I classification of the herb to a ranking that no longer suggests it is as dangerous as heroin. But because of the agency’s failure to come through, a lot of doctors are still concerned that their involvement in medical marijuana may eventually lead to career smashing run-in with drug agents. And since there is no real clarity over when the Feds might deem it necessary to start kicking down doors, many doctors just do not feel the reward is worth the risk.
But the good news is with somewhere over 1 million registered medical marijuana patients in the United States, there is quite obviously a legion of healthcare professionals out there who are serious about their role in cannabis medicine. The long-term goal on this issue, of course, should be in eliminating the cannabis plant from the confines of the Controlled Substances Act, so that the scientific community can begin to do what needs to be done for cannabis to be finally treated as an effective medicine.