Friday, July 24, 2009
In medicine, we say things come in "threes". Sure enough, I have written three prescriptions for medical cannabis within the past 2 weeks. One was for a patient to help manage chronic pain, one was for a patient who was losing weight with metastatic cancer and the third for a patient with multiple sclerosis and spasticity. Medical marijuana has been found to be effective in all three of these diagnosis.
In case you haven't been paying attention, much has changed in the marijuana world over the past few years. In the urban cities of California there are thought to be over 1000 dispensaries for medical cannabis. Patients with a prescription from an MD, can purchase marijuana to smoke, eat or in the form of lozenges and suckers. These public dispensaries usually get the product from small growers and have a selection of different types of marijuana to suit different problems.
In San Francisco there are 22 registered dispensaries of medical marijuana. There is no problem with law enforcement since regulations went into effect and there is oversight of the Department of Public Health and the City Planning Department. In Los Angeles there are over 300 facilities and only 186 are registered and the others are being closed down.
There is always the question about are these "pot clubs" being just a way for someone to legally get marijuana. Since it is easy to find a doctor (some advertise) that will write a prescription for just about any bogus condition for a $200 fee, there are probably lots of users who don't really need it as medicine.
On the other hand, these programs prevent access by minors under 18 without being accompanied by a parent (and a legal Rx). They pay taxes and keep marijuana from being controlled by drug lords. One club employs over 100 people. (I don't know if they provide health benefits.)
No matter if some of the users are charlatans, the clubs do serve an important purpose for patients who do benefit from natural marijuana for a number of medical conditions. Since marijuana (both legal and illegal) is the largest crop grown in California (estimates at $18 billion), I call this an opportunity for legalization and taxation.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 5:05 PM