The Teenage Mind

The internal experience of the young adult

Medical Marijuana: The Doctors Dilemma

If cannabis can help people in extreme pain, how can they be denied access?

Marijuana is approved as medicine in 18 states and the District of Columbia yet some doctors are still reluctant to prescribe it. This talk show interviews doctors who are currently recommending marijuana and how and why. Doctors are calling in from states like Colorado and saying their patients are in extreme pain and grateful to have something less addicting than opiates. One doctor says she sees Iraq vets who are referred from the Veterans Hospital (VA). Because the VA takes federal money they cannot recommend cannabis but Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients find their way to her. She says the patients are very grateful for something that helps them sleep. She also said many of her patients are in extreme pain and can’t afford expensive pharmaceuticals. Her patients are grateful to have access to an affordable treatment.

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A discussion from the perspective of doctors is very illuminating. Dr. Bostwick, from the Mayo Medical School, emphasized the importance of the doctor-patient relationship, a through screening, and follow-up visits as part of the recommendation. Unfortunately, this is frequently not happening. Instead, some doctors hand out 215 cards without a through exam and without follow-up. A second and obvious problem with marijuana is that it is illegal at the federal level.

To me the question becomes, if a healer knows of an intervention that can help people in extreme pain and has relatively benign side effects, how can he/she justify denying them access? Anyway, this is a very good discussion and I encourage you to listen to it.


Jann Gumbiner, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and clinical professor at the University of California, Irvine College of Medicine.


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