Too many patients will have to find someone other than their primary care physician to certify they qualify for care under Missouri’s new medical marijuana law.
Though some doctors are simply reluctant, many more are barred from making certifications by medical groups or corporations they contract with, according to a recent AP story reported in the Globe.
Medical corporations should not get between patients and their physicians regarding certification for medical marijuana.
Not that their concerns have no merit. Medical marijuana shows clear benefits in treating seizures, the pain of cancer and side effects of its treatment, and in reducing chronic pain, but we need better information on dosage and administration. We don’t know as much as we should about medical marijuana.
That lack of information is the result of federal regulations that have stymied research. Federal laws and the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug create legal inconsistencies that corporations just don’t want to deal with.
But a majority of states — 33 — have approved medical marijuana, and 14 others allow some use of marijuana products for medical treatment. The people of Missouri and the other states who have passed these measures have acted to overcome the federal stonewalling — an unfortunate remnant of the failed war on drugs — to effect a much needed change. Particularly for chronic and severe pain patients, we know their other choices are poor and can be dangerous — a big contributor to the current opioid crisis.
The Missouri law requires certification by a doctor that the patient has a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use — not a prescription. This distinction is important. Physicians can lose their DEA license to prescribe controlled substances for prescribing a Schedule I drug. The courts have found certification distinct from prescription. They have held that certification and discussing marijuana’s potential benefits are protected under the First Amendment and that the confidential relationship between doctor and patient requires open and unrestricted communication. Further, Congress has enacted protections for the 47 states where medical marijuana is legal in some form or another.
It is time for medical corporations to stop standing in the way of the legitimate relationship between primary care physician and patient. Mercy, Freeman and other health care organizations should develop policies that don’t block doctors and patients from determining the appropriateness of certification to allow patients to apply for a medical marijuana card for any of a range of ailments, including PTSD, cancer, epilepsy and chronic pain.
The health care industry needs to leave the matter between the individual patient and physician.