Have you heard that Utah’s much-anticipated Limited Medical Provider (LMP) program has finally launched? The LMP program is a fantastic upgrade that should prove beneficial to patients who may not have access to a QMP near them. That being said, your regular doctor or advanced practice nurse may not be willing to act as an LMP.
Cannigma contributor, medical doctor, and Medical Cannabis proponent Dr. Daniela Garelick, M.D. discussed provider reluctance in a post published a couple of years ago. Even though some time has passed, her comments are still relevant today. They certainly apply to the situation here in Utah.
Garelick suggests three reasons medical providers may still be reluctant to recommend Medical Cannabis. Before we get to them, a quick word about the LMP program: thanks to changes in the law, any physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or podiatrist with prescribing authority in the state can now recommend Medical Cannabis for up to fifteen patients at a time. That is it in a nutshell.
Moving on to the reasons doctors may be reluctant to get on board, the first cited by Dr. Garelick relates to ongoing legal questions. Medical Cannabis may be completely legal under state law, but cannabis is still an illicit substance under federal law. This puts medical providers in a position of not understanding their own legal status.
It is completely understandable that legal questions would deter a provider from getting involved. No one wants to be on the wrong side of the law. But for medical providers, legal problems are more serious because they affect everything from licensing to insurance and admitting privileges.
Medical providers base their decisions on a combination of experience, general medical knowledge, and clinical data. A lack of clinical data makes it more difficult for doctors to advise. And unfortunately, while multiple studies investigating the benefits of Medical Cannabis have been done over the years, much of the data is inconclusive about specific medical conditions.
To put it in simple terms, medical providers already lacking sufficient knowledge of the endocannabinoid system may not see enough clinical data to convince them that recommending Medical Cannabis is the right way to go. Though it can be frustrating, do not fault them for this. Medical Cannabis is still relatively new compared to most of the other therapies doctors rely on. It is going to take time for doctors to fully embrace cannabis.
Last but not least are worries about potential patient abuse. Some such worries are the result of hearing anecdotal evidence from other providers. Yet we cannot discount the stigma effect, either. For the better part of fifty years, cannabis has been considered an illicit substance. Doctors have a tendency to equate illicit substances with abuse.
The potential for abuse exists with virtually every prescription drug on the market. Medical Cannabis should not be singled out simply because of its federal status. But again, do not fault doctors for their concerns. They are a product of their times.
It remains to be seen just how many professionals take advantage of Utah’s new LMP program. Here’s hoping that most providers with prescribing authority will get on board. That would be extremely helpful for patients who otherwise have to travel great distances to see a QMP.
Meanwhile, if you are a patient looking to get your Medical Cannabis card and you live anywhere near one of our locations, make an appointment to see one of our QMPs. We will do what we can to help you.