While cannabis has developed into a national discussion and a talking point in the presidential elections, a group of physicians has come out in support of medical and recreational marijuana legalization, as well as decriminalization.
Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR) cites multiple studies and data sets to back up their logic, which centers around the public cost of prohibition being far too much compared to legalization.
“As the public recognizes that cannabis prohibition clearly causes more harm than good.” DFCR’s website states, “Now is the time for physicians to begin advocating for effective government regulation of cannabis.”
The group also provided polling information on their site from a 2015 Medscape survey. Seventy percent of doctors who were surveyed believed marijuana has potential medical benefits, but only one percent have ever tried cannabis. For those physicians who have never tried marijuana, the results were almost an even split between legalization and continuing prohibition.
“We call upon physicians and medical associations to promote cannabis regulation as an alternative to prohibition. Once supplied with the evidence, even physicians who vigorously oppose cannabis use may logically advocate its legalization for adults.” said the site.
This announcement adds to the growing interest in legalizing marijuana. Some polling data indicates almost 60 percent of the United States supports the legalization of marijuana. The numbers for medical marijuana support are even stronger with almost 90 percent of Americans in favor of medical marijuana programs under a doctor’s supervision.
“You don’t have to be pro-marijuana to be opposed to its prohibition,”
DFCR founder David L. Nathan said to the Washington Post. Despite the support for legalization, only 9.5 percent of Americans use marijuana regularly, whether for recreational or medical purposes. This indicates many Americans are willing to support legalization whether or not they consume cannabis.
“Doctors should affirmatively support this,”
said Nathan. “If you’re going to make something against the law, the health consequences of that use have to be so bad to make it worth creating criminal consequences. That was never true of marijuana. It was banned in 1937 over the objections of the American Medical Association (AMA).”
In a report released by the CDC on how to properly prescribe opioid painkillers, the authors advises doctors not to test patients for marijuana.
To qualify for a pain management regiment, many clinics in the United States test for illegal drugs to determine if a patient has a penchant for abuse. Some doctors ban patients who test positive THC, even if marijuana is legal in the state. The CDC’s new guidelines seek to avoid “inappropriate termination of care” as a result of a doctor’s personal biases.
“Clinicians should not test for substances for which results would not affect patient management or for which implications for patient management are unclear.”
The authors of the guidelines recognize the dangers of turning away patients in need of pain management, as the opioid epidemic helps patients to acquire painkillers outside of the healthcare system.
“Clinicians should not dismiss patients from care based on a urine drug test result because this could constitute patient abandonment and could have adverse consequences for patient safety, potentially including the patient obtaining opioids from alternative sources and the clinician missing opportunities to facilitate treatment for substance use disorder.”
In addition, the report also highlights the inconsistency of urine tests for THC. “…experts noted that there might be uncertainty about the clinical implications of a positive urine drug test for tetrahydrocannabinols (THC).”
Previously, Pain News Network reported on the inconsistencies of drug tests for THC as well as opioids. “One study found that 21% of POC tests for marijuana produced a false positive result. The test was also wrong 21% of the time when marijuana is not detected in a urine sample.” Another study also revealed that incorporating cannabis into pain management treatments does not increase risk of substance abuse.
While the CDC report does not suggest marijuana is an alternative to an opioid painkiller, despite a report indicating a reduction in opioid deaths in states with reformed marijuana legislation, it was released not long after Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plea to the CDC to study the effectiveness of marijuana for pain management.