The medical benefits of cannabis are becoming better documented in clinical studies, yet federal marijuana legalization lags. Still, these doctors are standing up in support of medical marijuana, and here’s why.
Federal Law Inhibits Medical Support and Research
Legalization rolls on across North America, as Canada gave a national green light to recreational cannabis in October, and three more U.S. states in the midterm elections approved ballot measures. Internationally, several EU countries allow for doctor-prescribed, cannabis-derived medicines to be used for chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, chemo side effects and other disorders and ailments.
Federally speaking, cannabis remains a schedule I substance, and therefore many licensed professionals are reluctant to publicly support the drug. Because of this, cannabis is restrictively difficult to study in a clinical setting. However, the American Medical Association updated its policies in 2017 to state that more studies need to be performed, and the schedule I status reviewed in order to facilitate research.
Some Physicians Support Legalization and Promote the Medical Benefits of Cannabis
Federal scheduling doesn’t stop some physicians from pushing for legalization and speaking out about the benefits of medicinal cannabis use.
The Knox family, a husband and wife team alongside their two physician daughters, has spent years studying cannabis research, the endocannabinoid system and working to actually practice medicine with cannabis. This is in stark contrast to the “card-mill” system where doctors see as many medical marijuana patients in as little time as possible.
The Knox family founded the American Cannabinoid Clinics, which are focused on providing each patient with a personalized experience. Cannabis has different effects on different people, and various products will have differences, as well. The Knoxes want to be able to offer guidance for clients rather than just a prescription card.
Chicago surgeon Dr. Charles Bush-Joseph realizes that patients in chronic pain benefit from medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids. Opioid addiction is especially high in his home state of Illinois, where the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 40 prescription opioid deaths each day. When it comes to treating pain, medical marijuana has proven more effective than numerous narcotic painkillers such as Vicodin, with less potential for addiction.
Dr. Bush-Joseph has teamed up with Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple and Dr. Laurence Levine to form Physicians Against Injurious Narcotics, or PAIN. The doctors help push legislation to expand state medical marijuana programs and increase clinical research. Another organization, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR) is a large group of physicians who recognize that prohibition is unnecessary and promote legalization and regulation of cannabis.
With a growing body of research supporting marijuana use for medical purposes and a majority of Americans in support of legalization, we can remain hopeful for the future of cannabis legalization. In the meantime, some physicians continue to push for reclassification of the drug and are bravely battling social stigma regarding the substance to make it less restricted.