May 30, 2010

Why Doctors Hold the Key to Medical Marijuana

May 30, 2010

As I stated in my last post, I renewed my medical marijuana card this last week. While I was talking to the doctor at the clinic about my condition, we struck up a very interesting conversation about the doctor’s role in medical marijuana programs. He explained to me that he had been signing medical marijuana forms for the last two years, and previous to working at the clinic, he was very reserved about medical marijuana.

But as always seems to be the case, he came across a patient that was riddled with problems after years of taking painkillers, and after taking the advice of an open minded colleague, signed the patient’s medical marijuana forms. And like ALWAYS, the patient found more relief from medical cannabis use than they did with SEVEN pharm prescriptions, with no side effects. Needless to say, the doctor I was talking to has been an advocate of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program ever since.

I took that opportunity to thank him for having the courage to sign his name on the dotted line to help people, because after all, I know it isn’t easy to be known as a ‘medical marijuana doctor’ in some circles of society. If it wasn’t for doctors like the ones at the Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse Clinic (MAMAS), and countless other clinics in the states that have medical marijuana programs, the medical marijuana programs themselves would be pointless. A state can have all the medical marijuana laws in the world, and all of the qualifying patients in the world, but if there are no doctor’s to sign the forms, the whole program is DOA. Like the doctor at MAMAS said, “we are kind of the lynchpin in this whole thing.”

To further highlight the importance of doctor’s in this public policy area, one only has to look at the framework of medical marijuana policy at the state level. In most medical marijuana states, an out-of-state medical patient is not recognized by the law (click here to see which states recognize out-of-state patients). In the few states that do recognize out-of-state patients, the patients are bound by the laws of the state they are in (example – if you are in Montana, you follow Montana limits, not Oregon’s). The only piece of medical marijuana policy that is ‘free flowing’ in all medical marijuana states is the doctor’s themselves, which is VERY significant.

I’m not a MD, however, if I understand the process correctly, if you have your medical license you can practice in every state in the US with just a little ‘hoop jumping’ (filling out paperwork with the relevant, regulating state agency). So if a new state passes medical marijuana laws, patients can’t come from out of state to get a doctor’s signature, out of state patients may or may not be able to travel with medicine in the new state, yet doctor’s can flood in from miles around to pump out signatures with virtually no problems! A great example would be the State of Montana. From March 2005 to March 2009, the State of Montana had 1,988 patients enter the medical marijuana program. From March 2009 to March 2010, the State of Montana had 10,007 enter the medical marijuana program!!

The number is over 15,000 now, so what changed? Doctor access, that’s what! Not only are there more open minded doctors signing forms in Montana, but the ones that are signing forms are signing more of them a day. Doctors now specialize in medical marijuana, and thanks to organizations like the Montana Caregivers Network, those same doctors are able to see over 100 patients a day. Members of the media and the Montana Board of Medical Examiners have called such practices ‘substandard care,’ but when you consider the process involved at a medical marijuana clinic, you will see that such allegations are unfounded.

The same thing happened in California in the last decade and in Colorado in the last couple years. Doctors come from out of state and set up shop, and the medical marijuana roll sheet expands rapidly. Some members of the medical community are trying to label this migration as a type of ‘medical carpet bagging’ but I would say this; if local doctors aren’t willing to step up and sign LEGAL FORMS for LEGAL PATIENTS that are in need of their medicine, then roll out the ‘welcome mat’ for out-of-state doctors that will!

I dream of a day that I can go to my primary physician, tell him that I don’t want pharms I just want marijuana, and he signs my form. He doesn’t let social pressure or stereotypes get in the way of doing what’s right, he just signs my form and lets me heal myself in a cost effective, natural way. But until that day is realized for all marijuana consumers in America that want to legally use cannabis for medical purposes, I guess we’ll just keep going to the clinic!


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