Medical Marijuana: One Physician’s Take

Long after the vote of the people was recorded, the implementation of medical marijuana in Massachusetts continues to raise multiple questions for many.  One of the most important is this: how vigorously will physicians consider marijuana as a medicine and participate in certifying patients?

While some physicians have already begun to certify patients, others are saying no.  Major impediments to physician participation include the lack of scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness and safety of the drug for the majority of its purported uses and their reluctance to start patients on treatment regiments with which they have no experience or training.

On May 3, the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton published an editorial stating that “The step of certification is the most important one patients take in a multi-step process to obtain medical marijuana.”  The paper, noting that physicians for the most part are shying away from certifying patients, had a clear message for physicians: “We urge doctors to be bold. It seems cruel and inhumane to withhold treatment of a legal drug to people who are suffering and with it may find relief.”

Dr. Alan Berkenwald, a Northampton physician who practiced primary care in the area for 25 years before becoming a hospitalist at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, responded, and the Gazette published his commentary on May 7.  Read Dr. Berkenwald’s, Why I won’t prescribe medical marijuana, here.


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