America’s doctors can’t live without drugs. Physicians bending to pressure from pharmaceutical companies and over-prescribing opiate-based pain pills is accepted as one of the root causes of the heroin and opiate overdose epidemic, yet doctors still hand out anything that will fit in an orange bottle with a label to anyone who asks.
Just ask doctors, who admit they hand out antibiotics when it will do no good, oftentimes to fulfill expectations from patients who want something more (read: a pill) than being told to go home and rest (or clean up their diets and exercise).
Whether it’s pressure from patients or from pharmaceutical companies is beside the point. Primary-care physicians can’t survive without drugs, which is why when the DEA revokes a doctor’s ability to hand out pills, their economic livelihood is at risk.
This week, the DEA revoked the licenses to prescribe for two Colorado physicians. As the Denver Post reported, the DEA suspension is a formality, as the doctors, Gentry Dunlop and Janet Dean, have both had their state licenses to practice medicine yanked by the state.
Colorado suspended five doctors’ licenses last year, as per the newspaper; Dean and Dunlop are the only doctors so far to lose their federal licenses for recommending more plants than is “medically necessary,” according to state and federal investigations.
Both doctors are accused of writing too many medical-marijuana recommendations and writing recommendations that recommended too many plants—which is to say, more than the standard six allowed under Colorado state law.
But how many plants are too many, and why is it up to a state medical board and not a doctor to determine how many plants are needed?
Not that physicians who recommend cannabis are blameless.
In California, some doctors have been writing “grow certificates” that supposedly allow the patient to grow up to 99 plants—and they’ve been doing it for years. Still, enforcement appears spotty and arbitrary, with little to no intervention from state or federal officials in California in contrast to the crackdown in Colorado.
Across the country, the DEA interferes with marijuana-recommending doctors only in the most egregious circumstances. Several physicians were forced to resign from the boards of medical marijuana companies in Massachusetts after the DEA offered them the choice of resigning, or staying and losing their DEA licenses to prescribe drugs.
You heard all that correctly: We’re living in an era of crisis caused by prescription pain pills, use of which can be reduced by replacing them with cannabis, and the DEA is spending time and energy rooting out doctors who authorize people to use too much weed.