Many healthcare professionals remain sceptical of the medical efficacy of cannabis and some US doctors are disturbed that there has been too little consultation when medical cannabis laws are passed. Meanwhile, patients using state medical cannabis programs have found there are advantages to the incomplete medicalisation of cannabis.
Patients don’t want it to become just another prescription drug – while their doctors want it to be more closely studied, tested and regulated before they are happy to prescribe it.
Research published earlier this year in the journal Sociological Focus examined the experiences of cannabis patients expressed in five focus groups in southwest Michigan during the summer of 2019.
The results indicated that patients faced resistance from some medical professionals. Nevertheless, patients still preferred the self-directed nature of medical cannabis to conventional prescription drugs, and would still seek post-prohibition state medical cannabis programs.
Despite widespread public acceptance, medical cannabis largely exists in the US outside of institutionalised medicine. But patients have not found this a completely bad thing.
The Michigan Medical Marijuana Program (MMMP) allows patients to possess up to 2.5 oz of cannabis and grow up to 12 plants. In a process costing between $200 and $300, a physician must certify that the individual has a qualifying medical condition and submit an application to the state every two years.
Many doctors are reluctant to do this, however.
The benefit of personal control
Some have also raised concerns about the nature of state medical cannabis programs, primarily because use is individually determined and not subject to institutional monitoring. But it is precisely this self-control that appeals to patients.
The Michigan-based study, conducted by sociologist Matt Reid, reported that patients using the MMMP say they have experienced scorn and discrimination from mainstream healthcare providers and are still battling with the social stigma attached to the plant.
However, they report that they benefit from having personal control of their own treatment, are reducing their reliance on pharmaceuticals, and are inspired to learn more about their conditions and healthcare options.
Both medical and recreational cannabis use is now legal in many US states, but the lack of enthusiasm among some healthcare professionals about potential beneficial uses of cannabis may stem from a shortage of research – itself due to continuing federal prohibition.
In Canada, the number of patients accessing medical cannabis programs increased after legalisation – perhaps due to growing social acceptance among previously hesitant patients, but chiefly due to the legal protections that come from being on an official program.
Post-prohibition in the US there is likely to be increased demand for certifying physicians, but also desire among patients to maintain freedom from regimented control by medical professionals.
– Catherine Placket contributing writer, and CannIntelligence staff