Can Medical Marijuana Help Your Practice Thrive?

Leigh Page


January 15, 2019

In This Article

Could Doctors Face Board Sanctions?

The picture is different in Massachusetts, where the state medical society was concerned that just 13 doctors were seeing 75% of cannabis patients in the state. In 2016, the board suspended the licenses of two physicians accused of improperly certifying thousands of patients for marijuana use.[21]

Proponents argued that the suspensions had the effect of dampening other doctors' interest in the state program. "Doctors are very scared of the board and very reluctant to recommend medical cannabis in Massachusetts," said the owner of a medical cannabis practice.[21]

Licensing boards also still pursue cannabis physicians in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. The Denver Post reported that since 2014, the state health department, which operates the cannabis program, had been routinely referring doctors for board investigation if they recommended that patients grow more than the maximum number of marijuana plants.[22]

Cannabis physicians in the state sued, accusing state officials of "quietly and illegally concocting a policy to police doctors," but the lawsuit was hidden from the public because a judge suppressed the lawsuit, the newspaper said.[22]

The Future With Recreational Marijuana

As more states legalize recreational marijuana, it's been suggested that perhaps medical marijuana faces a possibly irrelevant future. Ten states are on the recreational bandwagon, and new governors in Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Wisconsin want to follow suit.[23]

Canada offers a glimpse of what could happen next. When Canadian sales of recreational marijuana were legalized in October 2018, the Canadian Medical Association declared that a separate regulatory system for medical cannabis would no longer be necessary. But others argued that the system would still be needed for such matters as recommending doses greater than the recreational limit.[24]

Goldstein says California's legalization of recreational sales, in 2016, fundamentally changed medical cannabis practices in the state. "Many of my adult patients feel they are doing very well on cannabis," she says. "They no longer need me for a letter."

She says some adult patients stuck around because they still want the advice, and there is a tax break for people who buy medically approved cannabis.

But the main impact is that Goldstein's practice has become more pediatric. Parents of pediatric patients in California still have to get a doctor's permission to buy cannabis. Whereas her practice used to be 60% adult and 40% children, now it's 60% children and 40% adult, she says.

Many states, however, are not expected to legalize recreational use any time soon. Seventeen states, mostly in the South, have not yet allowed comprehensive medical cannabis programs.

In these states, the wave is just beginning. Right after Oklahoma voters approved a comprehensive medical cannabis program in July 2018, 300 people visited the first clinic in Tulsa in just 4 days, and the clinic received 1100 phone calls and 800 emails.[25]


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