Smoke Local

By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  February 16, 2011

The law has a provision for adding "debilitating" conditions, but this depends on the formation of an advisory board consisting of eight physicians, each from a different medical specialty, who are knowledgeable about medical marijuana, plus two patient representatives. Earlier this month the Maine Medical Association announced [that it was still seeking volunteers to serve on the advisory committee]. To be considered for appointment to the committee, a physician must be board-certified in the specialty and be "knowledgeable about medical marijuana."

The board is supposed to meet once a year, but has not even formed yet, and I doubt it will anytime soon because most specialty physicians know little of botanicals and even less of marijuana, and these physicians have important things to do outside of volunteering for an unnecessary board. LD1811 applied retroactively to December 23, 2009, so we're already over the one-year mark with no board in sight any time soon.

I can guarantee that whoever created this list of conditions currently allowed in Maine did not have clinical experience in cannabis medicine.

[We asked John Thiele why the medical board has not yet been formed. He gave this answer: "due to the change in the governor, the DHHS commissioner's office is in transition."]

YOUR WEBSITE (DRSULAK.COM) FEATURES QUESTIONS FROM POTENTIAL PATIENTS WHOSE DOCTORS HAVE REFUSED TO RECOMMEND MEDICAL MARIJUANA. IS THIS COMMON? From my patients I have heard that most of the large hospitals and medical groups have developed policies prohibiting their doctors from recommending MMJ. [John Lamb, communications director at Maine Medical Center, says: "We've drafted a policy that's going through the review process."] A physician has every right to deny MMJ certifications, especially if they are uneducated in the practice of recommending MMJ (this is not part of any standard curriculum). As MMJ becomes more of a mainstream, first- or second-line treatment for many conditions, it will eventually become the standard of care that MMJ at least be considered. I can foresee a time when unscientific prejudice that prevents consideration of MMJ as a treatment becomes something medical boards must consider malpractice. Personal preference should not obstruct a physician's careful risk/benefit evaluation of the safest and most effective treatment options.

HOW DO YOU THINK MAINE'S MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROGRAM COULD AFFECT THE STATE'S HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY? MMJ can help heal the economics of medicine by:

• Empowering patients to grow their own medicine;
• Allowing patients to purchase their medicine from a source that supports local economy instead of large corporations;
• Creating jobs and meaningful work for more Mainers in the MMJ industry. I believe that MMJ will continue to emerge as not only a treatment for debilitating conditions and aid to local economy, but also as a tool for health promotion and disease prevention.

Deirdre Fulton can be reached atdfulton@phx.com.

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