Too few doctors recommending medical cannabis remains the primary obstacle faced by patients with qualifying medical conditions in states where it has been legalized. There is data available, and more accumulating every day, that marijuana is effective as a treatment for several medical conditions and symptoms. The drug has shown promise in the treatment of many more. You may wonder why a medicine that has proven to be effective, and is legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, is not being recommended by all doctors.
Physicians depend on the results of carefully conducted experiments that include a large number of patients to guide them in determining the usefulness of a medication or medical procedure. In the case of marijuana there has been research validating its usefulness and others suggesting potential. Unfortunately, experiments with cannabis typically have not enrolled large amounts of people and it is impossible to randomize, or separate patients into groups getting marijuana and those not getting it without them knowing which affects the interpretation of results.
Social stigma, or shame, associated over the years with marijuana has been another significant deterrent to physicians making recommendations for the drug. Criminalization of cannabis has led to inadequate research which makes it difficult for doctors to make informed decisions. There is a small group of doctors in every state where medical marijuana is legalized who make most of the recommendations. Many doctors do not want to be grouped into this “Dr. Feelgood” atmosphere.
There is data available, and more accumulating every day, that marijuana is effective as a treatment for several medical conditions and symptoms.
Focus on seriously ill patients
Physicians tend to be focused on making medical cannabis recommendations for seriously ill patients. Serious illness is just one qualifying condition, and probably the least prevalent. Physicians are less willing to make recommendations for patients who they perceive do not have a serious illness or condition.
Worry about employer relationship
Professional risk is first and foremost in many physicians’ minds when it comes to making therapeutic cannabis recommendations. Doctors who are employees of a hospital or group worry about repercussions since using cannabis for medical purpose remains illegal according to federal law. Physicians who make a recommendation are protected by the law because it has been determined that their recommendation is protected speech and essential in maintaining an effective patient-provider relationship.