| “Sick and tired of your doctor(s) not listening to you about medical marijuana? Here’s what’s going on behind the scenes…”
We try and avoid bias under all circumstances here at Marijuanabreak, but the truth of the matter is, it’s got to be a tough time to be a doctor right now in the United States – particularly when it comes to patients and the use of medical cannabis.
For one, patients must understand that doctors are not above the law. You can argue with them all you want about how marijuana is helpful for you and your specific condition, but if weed is not legal in the state that you live in (either medicinally or recreationally), then there really is not a whole lot they can do to help you.
Secondly, patients interested in marijuana use for medicinal purposes must understand that doctors are not some “all knowing” entities with an inherent knowledge of the pharmacological effects of cannabis on the human body. For better or worse, they are simply trained to know what drugs are clinically proven for what ailments – and unfortunately, very little clinical evidence exists with regard to the clinical effects of marijuana.
In this article, we take the side of the physician for a little bit, and discuss some of the reasons why your doctor may be unable – or unwilling – to talk to you about the use of medical cannabis.
Understanding a doctor’s relationship with cannabis law
To be clear, as of late 2018 marijuana is only legal for medicinal purposes in 31 U.S. states. Unless you are a resident of one of these states, your doctor will not be able to help you out when it comes to the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
| “Unless you are a resident of a medically legal state, your doctor will NOT be able to help you out when it comes to the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.”
Moreover, even if you do live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, you must be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition. Of the 31 states that have legal medical marijuana programs, 28 of them provide a list of specific ailments that a patient must suffer from in order to be considered as a candidate for medical cannabis.
Only California, Oklahoma, and West Virginia leave the recommendation process solely up to the discretion of the physician (though be advised that neither the Oklahoma or West Virginia programs are operational as of yet).
But what if you live in a medically legal state, have been diagnosed with a qualifying condition, and your doctor still won’t talk to you about medical marijuana? Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common scenario for tens of thousands of individuals across the United States. Is there anything you can do about it?
“I have a qualifying medical condition, but my doctor still won’t talk to me about marijuana…”
For better or worse, doctors have NO obligation to recommend or prescribe marijuana for their patients, even if cannabis is medically legal in the state and the patient suffers from a diagnosed qualifying condition. Doctors are (understandably) the highest authority when it comes to the well-being of their patients, and it is their decision and their decision only how they choose to treat them. If your doctor refuses to recommend medical marijuana for you – even if you have a diagnosed qualifying condition – there is really nothing you can do about it other than find another doctor.
DID YOU KNOW: Doctors have NO obligation to recommend medical marijuana for their patients, even if they practice in a medically legal state?
Fortunately, in almost every single state with a medical marijuana program, there are dedicated clinical offices with “cannabis-specialist doctors” that should be willing to review your medical history and, if possible, complete an application on your behalf for a medical marijuana card.
The fact of the matter is, due to the severe lack of clinical evidence on marijuana use (see below), many traditional general practitioner physicians do not feel comfortable recommending or prescribing cannabis for their patients. It is unfortunate that so few reliable studies exist, but you must respect the position of the doctor if they feel there is not enough evidence to prescribe marijuana for your specific condition.
Lack of clinical research: A key reason why doctors won’t prescribe medical marijuana?
When it comes to prescribing medication for their patients, doctors are only allowed to issue a drug if it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a specific purpose. And to be clear, the only natural cannabis-based medication that is currently approved by the FDA is Epidiolex, which is a CBD drug used to treat rare forms of intractable epilepsy.
| “Doctors are only allowed to prescribe a drug if it has been approved by the FDA; and to be clear, marijuana is NOT an FDA-approved medication…”
There are other FDA-approved cannabis drugs, including Marinol (dronabinol), Sativex (nabiximols), and Cesamet (nabilone), but these are synthetically-produced cannabis medications and are not the same thing as whole-plant marijuana.
Sativex has been a relatively common prescription medication in the United Kingdom for muscle spasms relating to Multiple Sclerosis, while Cesamet is most commonly used to help control symptoms relating to Parkinson’s disease. Again, however, both of these drugs are synthetically-produced and should not be mistaken with actual whole-plant cannabis.
All in all, a doctor’s decision not to prescribe or recommend a medication due to lack of clinical efficacy must be respected. In order for a drug to gain FDA-approval, it must go through multiple testing stages and advanced clinical trials (under controlled circumstances) in order for the prescribing physician to know what the likely pharmacological outcome will be.
Moreover, the FDA-approval of a medication provides basic guidelines for prescribing physicians when it comes to dosing amounts, side-effects, and potential contraindications with other medications. Without these guidelines, it is entirely understandable why a physician may choose not to prescribe marijuana for a patient, even if it appears in the patient’s best interest to do so.
Conclusion: Why your doctor won’t talk to you about medical marijuana
If you are a patient that suffers from a qualifying medical condition, and the state you live in has an operational medical marijuana program, it can certainly be frustrating if your doctor refuses to speak to you about medical marijuana.
However, their decision should be respected – for all of the reasons that are outlined above. Medical doctors take an oath that they will act in the best interest of their patient’s well-being, and if they feel that the use of marijuana is not the best option under your specific circumstances, then they (for better or worse) have the final say of the matter.
At this point, your only other option is to research alternative doctors in the area that may be willing to review your records. As we’ve said, there are specific cannabis clinics in nearly every state with operating MMJ programs, so finding a doctor to recommend medical cannabis for you should not be an issue — as long as your records show diagnosis of a valid, qualifying condition.