Last updated on: 6/17/2008 9:47:00 AM PST
What Are Physicians' Views on Medical Marijuana?

PRO (yes)

Lester Grinspoon, MD, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, wrote in an Aug. 17, 2003 article published in the Boston Globe:

"Doctors and nurses have seen that for many patients, cannabis is more useful, less toxic, and less expensive than the conventional medicines prescribed for diverse syndromes and symptoms, including multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, migraine headaches, severe nausea and vomiting, convulsive disorders, the AIDS wasting syndrome, chronic pain, and many others."

Aug. 17, 2003 - Lester Grinspoon, MD 

Kate Scannell, MD, Co-Director of the Northern California Ethics Department at Kaiser Permanente and author of Death of the Good Doctor, wrote in an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 16, 2003:

"From working with AIDS and cancer patients, I repeatedly saw how marijuana could ameliorate a patient's debilitating fatigue, restore appetite, diminish pain, remedy nausea, cure vomiting and curtail down-to-the-bone weight loss."

Dr. Scannell concluded by noting: "almost every sick and dying patient I've ever known who's tried medical marijuana experienced a kinder death."

Feb. 16, 2003 - Kate Scannell, MD 

Andrew Weil, MD, Director of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, stated in a June 6, 2002 article published in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Like all medicines, marijuana has its drawbacks, particularly in smoked form. It is not a panacea. I support research into safer delivery systems such as low-temperature vaporizers or inhalers, which offer the fast action of inhaled medicine without the irritants found in smoke. Still, I have seen in my own studies that marijuana is less toxic than most pharmaceutical drugs in current use, and is certainly helpful for some patients, including those with wasting syndrome, chronic muscle spasticity and tractable nausea.

As a physician, I am frustrated that I cannot prescribe marijuana for patients who might benefit from it. At the very least I would like to be able to refer them to a safe, reliable, quality-controlled source."

June 6, 2002 - Andrew Weil, MD 

The New York AIDS Coalition's (NYAC) former Executive Director, Joe Pressley, stated during his testimony before the New York State Assembly on Dec. 13, 2002:

"Among physicians specializing in AIDS/HIV, there is a widespread acknowledgement that marijuana represents a significant treatment component for those who have advanced-state HIV symptoms, as well as for those with symptoms caused by the multiple-drug therapies used to control HIV."

Dec. 13, 2002 - New York AIDS Coalition 

CON (no)

Richard Carmona, MD, U.S. Surgeon General, told New York Times Magazine on June 19, 2005:

"I approach [the medical marijuana issue] not as a legal issue, but as a health issue, and I cannot recommend to anyone that they smoke, first of all. Smoking is so bad for you...

I can't say it would be safe to eat [marijuana], because no one has studied the long or short-term gastrointestinal effects."

June 19, 2005 - Richard Carmona, MD 

Andrea Barthwell, MD, told PBS "NewsHour" on Oct. 14, 2003:

"[T]the constituent part of marijuana, which is useful in the treating of HIV wasting, nausea associated with chemotherapy, and potentially pain, is available to physicians to prescribe in the form of Marinol...

What we're saying is that 21st century medicine dictates that we pursue the avenues that would allow us to develop the medications that would be useful in these disorders rather than turning our medical care system back to the 19th century where plant products were in fact distributed by snake oil salesmen for the treating of a number of symptoms...

Physicians who are compassionate and practicing scientifically based, evidence based 21st century medicine would much prefer to use Marinol, which is available to them, than suggest that their patients smoke a plant. They would not want to engage in asking a patient to smoke opium to treat pain or to chew deadly Nightshade to stabilize their heart beat."

Oct. 14, 2003 - Andrea Barthwell, MD 

Barry Dworkin, MD, wrote the following article in the Ottawa Citizen on Sep. 9, 2003:

"The [medical marijuana] studies raise more questions than they answer. There are too many unknown variables and known serious consequences that increase the risk of patient harm contravening the 'do no harm' tenet of medical care.

Marijuana's legislated use as a prescription drug circumvents standard drug safety protocols and is not the standard of care. There is a safer drug alternative for some patients that mimics THC's effects.

Most physicians will prescribe a drug that has been through thorough patient safety testing and clinical efficacy trials. Patients must choose their own treatment plan using all credible evidence.

I and many other physicians choose not to prescribe marijuana for long-term chronic illness based upon this evidence. I cannot prescribe a medication that has the potential over years of use to cause more known harm and health complications in addition to the patient's original condition."

Sep. 9, 2003 - Barry Dworkin, MD