Two-thirds of U.S. doctors support legalizing medical marijuana nationwide, and their nursing and pharmacy colleagues show support in even great numbers.
That’s the finding of a new survey from Medscape Medical News, released Sept. 12. But while the poll showed support for medical marijuana in theory, it also revealed a reluctance among medical professionals to actually recommend its use.
The poll asked 1,800 medical professionals two questions: Should recreational marijuana be legalized nationally? And should medical marijuana be legalized nationally? While recreational marijuana legalization received majority support among all groups, it was medical marijuana that garnered a resounding “yes.”
The poll found that:
Among physicians, 67 percent favored legalizing medical marijuana, and 53 percent supported recreational legalization.
Among nurses and advanced practice RNs, including such specialists as nurse practitioners and certified registered nurse anesthetists, 82 percent favored medical marijuana legalization, and 57 percent favored recreational legalization.
Psychologists equaled nurses in favoring medical marijuana legalization, at 82 percent, and 61 percent favored recreational legalization.
Among pharmacists, 71 percent support legalizing medical marijuana, and 54 percent favor recreational legalization.
Health business and administration professionals, perhaps cognizant of the rising costs of health care, registered the highest level of support for medical marijuana legalization, at 88 percent. They also showed the most support for recreational legalization, at 72 percent.
Despite the majority support for legalized medical marijuana, few health care professionals responding from states where medical cannabis is legal said they would actually recommend it. Whether they were doctors, nurses, or pharmacists, between 41 percent to 48 percent said they never make the recommendation. Only 10 percent of physicians said they often recommend it, and 24 percent said sometimes.
Some may be reluctant to recommend due to the continued federal prohibition on the cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana. Others point to the accompanying problem of scant research into the basic effects of marijuana.
“The big problem is good research on the acute effects of MJ,” commented one family physician on the findings of the poll. “What is needed is the blood level at which MJ is intoxicating. As it stands now in many states researchers cannot legally do the research to find this level. Any good medical physiologist could come up with this answer within months. This would allow for the safe use of MJ.”
Very few clinicians copped to using marijuana, recreationally or medically. Physicians, nurses, and pharmacists all came in at under 10 percent for medical use, while 13 percent of psychologists and 15 percent of administrators said they use medical marijuana. Overall, 9 percent of physicians said they consume marijuana recreationally, but use differs by age. Among those 44 and younger, almost one in four said they are recreational users.
While health care professionals wait for rigorous scientific research answering their questions, so they can have knowledgeable discussions with patients, many say they are seeing benefits every day.
“Cannabis is often a much healthier option for controlling many symptoms, notably chronic pain, anxiety, seizures, etc.,” said a registered nurse. “This list is long and growing every day.”