Cannabis is legal for medical use in only 19 of the 50 states, but a new poll shows that 76 percent of physicians would recommend or prescribe medical marijuana to patients experiencing cancer pain. For the poll, published in the May 30, 2013, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors were asked whether medical marijuana should be prescribed to a 68-year-old woman with symptoms from metastatic breast cancer. The researchers reported that 1,446 physicians from 56 North American states and provinces and 72 countries returned an opinion (although more than 1,000 of the responses came from the U.S. and Canada). The investigators noted that each U.S. state and Canadian province with at least 10 participants casting votes demonstrated more than 50 percent support for medicinal marijuana (except Utah, where only one percent of 76 voters supported cannabis use in a cancer patient). At the opposite end of the spectrum was Pennsylvania with 96 percent of 107 physicians supporting the use of medical marijuana in the case described. In comments, doctors who favored prescribing medicinal marijuana often focused on their responsibility to relieve pain, and some described personal experiences with patients who benefited from the use of marijuana. Opponents based their objections on lack of evidence, inconsistency of dosage, and concern about side effects.
I am a supporter of legislative action that would allow medical professionals to prescribe cannabis for patients who could benefit from its use. Evidence shows that it can relieve pain, nausea, vomiting, and symptoms associated with MS, cancer, and HIV/AIDS as well as alleviate side effects of drugs used to treat these diseases. I’m believe that marijuana is much less toxic than most pharmaceutical drugs currently used for these patients. However, smoking may not be the safest way to use marijuana’s medicinal benefits. More research is necessary to determine the best mode of administration.