Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia, with pending legislation to legalize the drug for medical purposes in 4 others. Although still illegal in 30 states, millions of patients are undoubtably using marijuana for medicinal purposes in these jurisdictions.
Much has been written about politics trumping science with respect to rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I drug,[2-5] as its medical benefits become progressively more accepted by the mainstream medical community as well as the general public. The Veterans Administration, which is becoming a leader in pain care in the United States, has even approved of its physicians authorizing medical marijuana in states in which it is legal.
Earlier this year, Kondrad and Reidpublished a large-scale survey-based study of family physicians’ attitudes toward medical marijuana in Colorado — a state in which medical marijuana has been legal since 2000. The results of their investigation were both startling and disturbing. They found that only 19% of respondents believed that physicians should recommend medical marijuana to their patients. However, they also found that 80% of respondents believed that education about medical marijuana should be incorporated into medical school curricula, 82% believed that such education should be included in family practice residency training, and 92% agreed that continuing medical education on medical marijuana should be made available to them. Opposition to recommending medical marijuana as a result of concerns about legal liability or licensure was reported by 23% of respondents, whereas only 13% cited a lack of medical evidence as their reason for opposition. These figures indicate that science is clearly not the primary issue of concern.