Medical marijuana is allowing chronically ill patients to relieve painful, often debilitating symptoms by legally “toking it up” instead of popping pills that they claim were not doing anything to ease their severe pain. The widespread acceptance of marijuana as a useful medication is also creating a unique medical practice niche that some critics are calling “certification mills” comparable to online diploma mills that provide you with a “real” degree in exchange for several hundred dollars.
According to an article in the Boston Globe, physicians who onlyperform assessments on patients seeking medical marijuana certification are rapidly emerging because many doctors remain apprehensive about the whole medical marijuana scene. Although Massachusetts doctors have been permitted since 2012 to legally evaluate anyone who feels that medical marijuana may be the only drug that can help their suffering, the state has not yet established pot dispensaries for the purpose of doling out medical marijuana to patients with “prescriptions.”
Filing the gap between pot-wary physicians and patients who desperately want access to marijuana are innovative practices like Delta 9 Medical Consulting and CannaMed that focus on certifying patients for medical marijuana cards. Importantly, physicians working in these new and extremely lucrative niche practices are bound by a legality involving the development of what the state considers a “bona fide” physician/patient relationship with patients seeking medical marijuana prescriptions. This means that pot doctors may find themselves in trouble if they begin rolling joints and handing them out to patients at their first visit.
Massachusetts Medical Society president Ronald Dunlap, MD, doesn’t quite buy into the justification, i.e., no functioning dispensaries, for allowing these practices to offer exclusive access to medical marijuana. In addition to not being in the best interest of the patient, Dr. Dunlap says that clinics can’t “just give out one substance. I mean, I couldn’t open a strictly Percocet or Oxycodone ‘clinic’ because that is not medicine.”
The fact that a few of these medical marijuana doctors/certifiers/clinics are selling pot cultivation books, palm-sized vaporizers and are even offering holistic pain treatments like acupuncture and Chinese cupping may also have something to do with Dr. Dunlap’s skepticism towards Massachusetts’ growing acceptance of patients as pot smokers.
In response to the division among pro-pot docs and physicians that just aren’t ready to make the jump from pharmaceuticals to plants, most large medical facilities and hospitals in Massachusetts are simply leaving individual physicians to decide for themselves whether they want to certify patients as suffering from a chronic illness that has not responded to synthetic pharmaceuticals and could benefit from using medical marijuana.
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