It’s one thing that 29 states have legal medical marijuana, but quite another to find a doctor to recommend it so patients can purchase their medicine.
Physicians can discuss and safely recommend, although not prescribe, cannabis to patients as a health care option, under state or federal law, thanks to a 2004 Federal Court decision that relied on the First Amendment.
“An integral component of the practice of medicine is the communication between a doctor and a patient. Physicians must be able to speak frankly and openly to patients,” read the decision.
Medical cannabis statutes in most states, going back to California’s Proposition 215 in 1996, choose this “recommendation” language carefully.
As states develop their MMJ laws, they enact regulations that include what and who can recommend and how the process works, but participating doctors are hard to find.
In Oregon, according to the Portland Mercury, the recommending physician has to be a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO).
The recommending doctor must also be the attending physician of the patient and have primary responsibility for the cardholder’s care. The idea behind this is to discourage shady MDs and DOs from setting up medical-card mills without really treating their patients.
Qualifying for a medical marijuana card is not terribly difficult so long as the patient’s illness or condition is on the list of qualifying conditions, which varies from state to state.
Unfortunately the cost of an MMJ card is not cheap; the application fee is usually in the range of $200-$300, in addition to the cost of the doctor’s visit.
Taking all of this into account, one wonders why there are so few doctors willing to fill the growing need for their valuable services?
Some say they are reluctant to recommend medical marijuana because there isn’t enough research to choose it over prescription drugs.
Some states haven’t been able to attract enough qualified physicians to get their legal MMJ programs up and running.
Many doctors have said they’d like to get involved but don’t feel they have enough knowledge about MMJ, which of course is not covered in medical school.
“We desperately need well-controlled unbiased, large-scale research studies into the efficacy of cannabis for treating disease states, which we have very little of right now,” said Sachin Patel of Vanderbilt University.
For now, here is a website that can help: MarijuanaDoctors.com is a trusted gateway where patients can search for certified physicians in every state in the union.