The Marginalization of Medical Marijuana

Dr. David Bearman Talks About The Changing Attitudes Among Physicians

I started doing recommendations for the medical use of cannabis in the spring of 2000. I have noticed a real thawing on the attitude of physicians. I have at least 80 physicians in Southern Santa Barbara county refer one of more of their patients to me to evaluate them for recommendations for the medical use of cannabis under the terms of proposition 215.

I have also found that physicians have become more and more curious about how this stuff works. Americans for Safe Access, about two years ago, asked me to speak to Kaiser Hospital in San Jose because somebody contacted them and would like to have a doctor come in and talk to us about this (medical cannabis). And the physicians listened to that with at least some respect and some with great interest.

There were some people that didn’t agree.

I think part of that is the way we marginalize herbal medicine as I discussed earlier. We have looked at manufactured medicines as being easier to characterize and easier to understand. But what we tend to forget as physicians I think, is that we have evolved with the plants and that manufactured pharmaceuticals contain structures that aren’t found in nature and are more difficult for the body to metabolize than structures that are found in nature.

At any rate, more and more physicians are hearing from their patients that cannabis is useful for a wide variety of conditions. I think that is why I am getting these referrals. Because the physician says to themselves, I have heard this before and I have seen this patient for a long time and they have credibility with me. Now here in California the reason that those physicians are not making the recommendation themselves, is because of the feeling that the medical board of California does not do their job very well. That they tend to be arbitrary, capricious, overly confrontive and they are perceived as being on a witch hunt in regard to medical marijuana. And most doctors want to avoid doing anything that would call the attention of the medical board to them, even the threat of an investigation is aggravating, time consuming and costly.

So, physicians are becoming more curious about this and there is a group called Patients Out of Time which has held a conference every other year since 2000. It is a very unique conference which includes presentations by world class researchers such as Dr. Mishulin, clinicians like myself (Dr. David Bearman), patients and patient advocates. The way in which it is set up, it allows for ample time for interaction with people. We are seeing more and more physicians attending these conferences and I don’t think it is any surprise that within the last year or two we’ve had the American College of Physicians, the 2nd largest physician organization in the country, support medical marijuana.

We have had the American Medical Association, the largest physician organization in the United States, call for re-scheduling of cannabis, so it can be prescribed and more research can be done. We have 14 state nurses associations call for medical marijuana to be legalized, as well as the American Nurses Association and the American Public Health Association and a hundred or so health related organizations. So this is not something that a small group of nutty people think is a good idea. You have hundreds if not thousands of scientists around the world that are doing research on this. You have thousands of American physicians that have made recommendations for approval. We know that over three thousand doctors in Oregon have made recommendations, because they have a mandatory patient identification card.

In California your guess is as good as mine. Whether or not we have 25% of our physicians making recommendations as it appears we do in Oregon, probably not, but we do have 90,000 practicing physicians in California. It is estimated as a low guess that at least 5000 of them have made one or more of those recommendations. My impression is that the number is increasing and it should be somewhere over 9000, somewhere over 10% of the practicing physicians. So, for people to think that this is something weird or peculiar or unusual or just a small handful of physicians are doing, is not accurate does fit with the facts.

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