on December 19, 2017 in

Why Doctors Prescribe Pot – and Why Not

Why do some doctors prescribe pot and others not?

Physician David Casarett gives a balanced and educated opinion on the use of marijuana for medical purposes,  and he offers an original view on the positive effects that reach beyond the physical benefits.


Dr. Casarett is just one doctor who is navigating the brave new world on freed marijuana, but what the others?

Well, it seems like there are quite a few who support legalizing marijuana.

Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR) is an international non-profit group comprised of  physicians, researchers, and government officials. It was initially formed by a group of more than 50 physicians, that included a former surgeon general and faculty members at some of the nation’s leading medical schools. The group supports the legalization, taxation, and regulation of cannabis in the United States and around the world.

They recently partnered with NFL players on an open letter to league officials and doctors to request support for the reform of the the substance-abuse policy and the use of medical marijuana for pain relief.

Julie Holland a psychiatrist and member of DFCR is also editor of The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis. “There’s a lot of research that needs to be done and it’s very hard to do research on drugs that are illegal,”

And according to a 2015 poll, over 59% of doctors who have tried marijuana advocate for full legalization, and International survey that included responses from 1,446 doctors from 72 different countries and 56 different states and provinces in North America, revealed that 76% supported full legalization.

doctor in medical marijuana lab

Albertan Doctors Prescribe Pot

In Alberta, Canada, doctors are becoming increasingly more open to the idea of prescribing medical marijuana. There are currently 495 doctors in Alberta who prescribe marijuana to 9,995 Albertans.

However, the doctors themselves all agree that there is not enough research on medical marijuana, and this needs to be addressed by medical schools as well as the scientific community  to ensure that doctors are more informed than their patients, as opposed to the current situation where patients, and local budtenders, are more informed than your general GP.

As Holland states, “This is about doctors educating doctors, part of our job is to change laws that are not good for public health. This is part of me doing my job as a doctor. I need to educate the public.”

And it’s not before time, many doctors just don’t know about the effects of marijuana and what it can do, and despite the fact that the discovery of the endocannabinoid is a major scientific discovery, only 13% of medical schools in the U.S. include it in the curriculum.

This is shocking when you consider that despite the fact that medical marijuana is legal in almost 30 states, doctors cannot legally prescribe it because it is illegal at a federal level, which means they could lose their federal license for prescribing a Schedule 1 drug.

And in addition to the legal barriers, they are also lack the knowledge and training that is required for all the drugs they can legally prescribe.

This year, the medical school at the University of Hawaii held its first seminar on medical marijuana with a panel of doctors and lawyers  to discuss the drug itself and the regulations governing its use. This is a step in the right direction.

But, it’s not just education that is a barrier to medical marijuana, bureaucracy is often to blame for stopping access.

doctor with patient in hospital

Bureaucracy Slows Pot Prescriptions

When Lalanya Blue McGraw asked an oncologist at the BC Cancer Agency for a cannabis prescription to help deal with the effects of cancer, he refused. Not because he was against it, but because of the Health Canada paperwork required when prescribing products obtained through the federal Medical Marijuana Access Regulations.

However, despite these hiccups with legalization, regulation, and education, the future for medical marijuana is all about growth. Neurologist and medical scientist, Dr. Ethan Russo’s work on clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CEDC) helps us understand why cannabis helps so many different conditions. And as more doctors read up on the benefits, and pharmaceutical companies come on board after federal legalization, and as more and more evidence comes out supporting this theory, we will hear more doctors and scientists agree that as Dr. Russo states, “Cannabis could well be the future of medicine.”


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