Medical professionals favor legalization

A poll conducted by Medscape Medical News reveals that a solid majority of physicians support national legalization of medical cannabis and adult use.

The poll was first posted on the medical news website in May in response to statements by Senator Chuck Schumer in support of a bill to decriminalize at the federal level. After allowing some time for readers to respond, the site posted the results.

Should Medical Marijuana Be Legalized Nationally?

On the question of whether medical marijuana should be legalized nationally, 67 percent of physicians said yes, along with 88 percent of administrators, 82 percent of nurses, 71 percent of pharmacists, and 82 percent of psychologists. On the question of recreational marijuana, 53 percent of physicians, 72 percent of administrators, 57 percent of nurses, 54 percent of pharmacists, and 61 percent of psychologists approved of national legalization.

Table 2. Should Recreational Marijuana Be Legalized Nationally?

Those medical professionals who live in states where medical marijuana is legal have not been eager to recommend it to patients, however. Only 10 percent of doctors said they recommend it often, and 41 percent said they never recommend it. Similar responses came from nurses and pharmacists.

There are also relatively few users of marijuana in the medical field. The numbers who use medical marijuana: physicians, 6 percent; nurses, 6 percent; administration, 15 percent; pharmacists, 8 percent; psychologists, 13 percent. With recreational marijuana the numbers are: physicians, 9 percent; nurses, 11 percent; administrators, 19 percent; pharmacists, 18 percent; and psychologists, 20 percent.

The survey also allowed comments, three of which were published. A doctor lamented the lack of scientific research on marijuana, noting that there is yet no test for intoxication, but that “Any good medical physiologist could come up with this answer within months.” The doctor noted that such a test could make it possible to set proper dosage. A registered nurse opined that medical cannabis is “often a much healthier option” than prescription medication for conditions such as chronic pain and seizures. A psychologist noted that since marijuana “alters consciousness” and affects behavior, its effects on the brain cannot be taken lightly.

Comments also appear on the page announcing the survey results, and the opinions of the medical professionals who commented on the survey results can be grouped into four rough categories. One is anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of medical cannabis in treating some symptoms, most notably chronic pain. Another is a call for research, given that, to date, marijuana has not been subject to much medical investigation. Implicit in this call is that marijuana should no longer be classified as a drug with no medical value. A third is a warning that marijuana, being a drug that affects the brain, must be considered dangerous until proven otherwise. A fourth is support for legalization, often because of the good clinical results that have been obtained, even though that warning is not to be discounted. One does not have to be in favor of getting high, however, to be opposed to prohibition.

Despite their concerns, medical professionals view legalization more favorably than the general public. A recent Gallup poll has 64 percent of Americans favoring legalization, and a Quinnipiac poll puts the number at 63 percent. If more than two thirds of doctors support legalization today, it seems likely that more lay people will do so tomorrow.

What do you think? Will doctors start recommending more often? Leave a comment below.

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