By Ed Coghlan
Is medical marijuana about to be approved in Pennsylvania? It could happen as early as this week. (Read story)
Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, supports legalizing medical cannabis and has said he would sign a bill if it reaches his desk. The challenge has been a Republican-controlled legislature that seems to be moderating its historical opposition to medical marijuana. 23 states, including neighboring New Jersey, have approved medical marijuana.
Another state that has approved medical marijuana is California, the nation’s largest state. This November, Californians may follow the lead of Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and the District of Columbia and go for full recreational use of marijuana.
That has an Orange County, California physician wondering if the full legalization of marijuana is good for medical marijuana.
“I’m for it for just medicinal use,” said Dr. Chyle Beaird.
“There are lots physicians and patients who want to see this used for medicinal purposes and covered by insurance,” he said. “If it’s approved for just recreational use it would devalue a lot of sacrifices that people have made to make it available for medicinal use.”
Dr. Beaird spoke recently at a CRPS conference in Long Beach about the use of medical marijuana.
In an interview with the National Pain Report, Dr. Beaird bemoaned the lack of research into the efficacy of medical marijuana to treat many conditions, including chronic pain.
“It’s hard to change attitudes and behavior,” he said. “It makes no sense for the government to put cannabis in the same category as heroin.”
He pointed out that many family practice physicians and some pain physicians are still resistant to prescribing medical marijuana.
The acceptance is gaining wider acceptance, but it’s not happening fast.
Dr. Beaird says that once a colleague is receptive to learning, he can help them understand why marijuana may be a good option for patients.
“When a doctor says ok, I’m going to listen to you. Tell me why this is good for my patient – then I know we can have a conversation,” he said. “A doctor who asked me about it had a loved one who was in pain, let’s just say that my information didn’t fall on deaf ears.”
Many physicians are waiting for the patient to suggest it…because they are concerned about patient reaction.
“Physicians are sometimes resistant about prescribing marijuana for another reason. They aren’t sure how the patients will respond,” Dr. Beaird said. “I have colleagues in pain management who, once the patient asks about marijuana,they prescribe it immediately.”
“The patient shouldn’t be reluctant to say anything,” he said.
Finally, Dr. Beaird emphasized that prescribing medical marijuana shouldn’t be a last resort. Prescribing cannabis should be introduced into the continuum of care earlier.
“Physicians need to educate themselves, talk to more colleagues (especially pain management) and oncologists and find out more so they are more comfortable recommending it earlier in treatment,” he said.