Letter to the Editor: Doctors, Patients Need Not Fear Medical Marijuana
Steph Sherer, executive director for Americans for Safe Access, responds to Patch's recent article, 'D.C. Doctors Not High on Medical Marijuana.'
Doctors should never prescribe or recommend medications with which they are unfamiliar, so it is a relief to hear that the doctors quoted in your recent article (“D.C. Doctors Not High on Medical Marijuana”) will not be telling their patients to use cannabis. If one of the many physicians who understand the therapeutic properties of cannabis had been consulted, readers might have learned something meaningful instead of being subjected to a litany of myths and misinformation.
For instance, it is becoming increasingly common knowledge that smoking is but one delivery method for cannabis. At the beginning of the 20th century, cannabis medications were commonly manufactured and distributed by US pharmaceutical companies as tinctures - an extract of the plant suspended in a liquid solution - taken by the spoonful. Vaporization is another alternative delivery method to smoking, and has been shown to be very effective in clinical medical trials. These devices heat cannabis to a temperature below the combustion point, releasing the therapeutic oils as an air-borne vapor without creating any smoke. Thanks to compassionate use laws, tinctures and vaporization of medical cannabis is now a legal medical treatment option in many states.
As far as the concern that doctors “could get into trouble” for recommending cannabis to their patients, the federal courts sided with the 1st Amendment rights of physicians in upholding the landmark case of Conant v. Walters. Those “recommendations” are different from prescriptions, because DEA rules mean it cannot be prescribed, but for patients they have the same meaning — “my doctor thinks this is a quality option for me to treat my condition.”
Few if any doctors will have read every one of the more than 15,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles on medical cannabis and cannabinoids published in the last few decades, or even the 2,000+ articles on the human body’s natural endocannabinoids. But among Washington D.C.’s 9,000 licensed physicians there are surely some who are familiar with the dozens of double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials that have shown cannabis may not only help combat some terrible conditions but can do so in ways that no conventional medications can.
There are over 20,000 D.C. residents living with HIV, and thousands more suffering from cancer and multiple sclerosis who will potentially have safe access to medical cannabis to treat their serious illness. It would be a shame for these District residents to suffer because their physician was needlessly fearful of non-existent punitive consequences for recommending this proven medical therapy.
Executive Director, Americans for Safe Access