Marijuana Law, Policy, and Authority

Are Physicians Being Adequately Trained to Recommend Marijuana to Their Patients?

Posted by on Friday, September 15, 2017 in News, Updates.

Just because a state legalizes medical marijuana doesn’t mean that physicians will necessarily recommend the drug to their patients. Indeed, surveys have shown that only a small percentage of physicians in medical marijuana states have recommended the drug to their patients or plan to in the future (page 616 of my book).

As I discuss in the book (page 617), the reluctance to recommend marijuana reflects (at least in part) physicians’ ignorance of the drug. It’s no surprise that physicians hesitate to recommend something they don’t understand. And even though most states now have medical marijuana laws on the books, most medical schools still do not teach medical students about the medical use of marijuana. In a new study, researchers at Washington University found that:

Two-thirds (66.7 percent) [of medical school deans] reported that their graduates were not prepared to prescribe medical marijuana. A quarter of deans said their trainees weren’t even equipped to answer questions about medical marijuana.
. . . Nearly 90 percent [of residents at a St. Louis hospital also] felt they weren’t prepared to prescribe medical marijuana, and 85 percent said they had not received any education about medical marijuana during their time at medical schools or in residency programs throughout the country.
Using data from the [Association of American Medical Colleges] database, the researchers found that only 9 percent of medical schools had reported teaching their students about medical marijuana.

The full study can be found at Anastasia B. Evanoff et al., Physicians-in-training are not prepared to prescribe medical marijuana, 180 Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence 151 (Nov. 2017).

To be sure, for reasons I discuss in the book (pages 616-18), physicians might remain reluctant to recommend marijuana even after familiarizing themselves with the research on the drug. But to address the knowledge gap and remove one barrier to physician participation in medical marijuana programs, a few states have recently organized continuing medical education courses on medical marijuana (pages 618).

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