While medical marijuana will be legalized (with limitations) in Minnesota in July, a survey recently conducted by the Minnesota Medical Association (MMA) suggests that state physicians are still reluctant to prescribe it to their patients.
Two-thirds of the physicians surveyed reported that they would not take part in the state’s medical marijuana registry, raising concerns among residents as to how they will be able to procure their medicine once it becomes legal. To be eligible for inclusion in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program, patients must receive certification from a doctor ensuring they have one of nine qualifying conditions.
Some Minnesotans are finding that a doctor’s support of cannabis is not always enough. Resident Shelly Rapp shared that she sought certification from the neurologist who treats her 18-year-old son, who has epilepsy. While the neurologist believed the boy would benefit from treatment with medical marijuana, his practice collectively opted out of the program, leaving the neurologist with no choice but to do the same.
Rapp’s next attempt involved the family physician.
“He said he was going to think about it, but I kind of doubt he will,”
Rapp said of her request.
She may be correct. Of the 457 medical professionals who participated in the survey, only 9 percent openly admitted they would be willing to certify patients for the program. Fewer than 20 percent of respondents were undecided.
While doctors are responsible for certifying that a patient qualifies and may benefit from the program, pharmacists will be responsible for prescribing the recommended dose to patients. Some doctors have reported having an issue with not being able to oversee a patient’s use and care throughout the process of medical marijuana therapy.
MMA president-elect Dr. David Thorson was disappointed by the survey results, but believes they stem from the fact that medical professionals are concerned about a system in which physicians have been forced to take the back seat.
“That’s alarming to me. It shows that access is going to be an issue,”
said Thorson, who plans, at some point, to register with the Office of Medical Cannabis.
“I understand why people say they won’t certify. I don’t think it’s anything malicious. I think it’s just saying, ‘Based on my knowledge, I don’t see a value to doing this.”
Registration with Minnesota’s Office of Medical Cannabis began in June, and on the first day, 30 physicians had signed up. The MMA plans to conduct a more thorough survey in the near future to ascertain more information about physicians’ reluctance to prescribing medical marijuana.