Editorials

Doctors hesitant to prescribe medical marijuana, even though it’s now legal

Belleville resident Carol Schmidt suffers stage 4 colon cancer and, as such, qualifies for medical marijuana which is now legal in Illinois. The problem is, she can't find a doctor who will recommend it for her.

She apparently is not the only one. More than 30,000 qualifying patients were expected to have received medical marijuana cards by now, but only 3,600 have so far received a physician's referral.

Clinical studies have shown cannabis to be effective in the treatment of certain seizure disorders, glaucoma, cancer, anxiety and pain. An Illinois pilot program that makes medical cannabis legal through at least 2017, recognizes eight conditions for which cards may be issued.

So why are Illinois doctors so hesitant to endorse its use?

Maybe the bureaucracy is too thick. Nine pages of paperwork are required which physicians personally have to fill out and mail in.

Maybe they want to avoid the social stigma. As long as there are those who still associate marijuana only with burned-out hippies, some practitioners may want to avoid being tagged "Dr. Doobie."

Maybe the pharmaceutical companies are running interference. It may just be easier to prescribe what your drug rep has been selling you than to sign off on something that is so tightly regulated.

Whatever the reason, their lack of participation may put medical marijuana use in jeopardy, even as 32 other states continue to have success with such programs.

Will legislators extend the law beyond 2017 if doctors aren't on board? And what of the millions invested in cannabis cultivation and dispensary? Does that just go up in smoke?

Finally, what of Schmidt and the other patients? Marijuana for medical use is clinically-proven benefits and it’s legal. Their health and comfort shouldn't be left on hold.

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