Pot Conventions and the Appearance of Patient Care

At the last cannabis expo I attended, there was a doctor writing prescriptions for medical marijuana for dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people over a two-day period. The line was always wrapped around the corner, and it was never fewer than ten people deep.

I discuss medical marijuana and its related issues with a lot of people, both patients and non-patients alike.  Many are skeptical of marijuana’s medical value relative to other drugs, and see the entire medical movement as a front for drug dealers to make an “honest” living. How would they react to the sight of a doctor writing hundreds of recommendations for patients he had likely never treated before, who were lined up at least 10-deep for the entire two-day event. I’m guessing the convention doc would reinforce their negative view of medical marijuana.

I bring this up because the Montana Board of Medical Examiners has fined Dr. Patricia Cole $2,000 for operating in what sound like very similar conditions to the one described above. She saw 151 patients in 14.5 hours. From the Whitefish Pilot:

The peer reviewer concluded that Cole breached her statutory obligations to comply with “generally accepted standards of practice” and the state’s Medical Marijuana Act, including:

– Documentation was lacking whether she personally took comprehensive past or present medical histories, performed physical examinations, or performed medical marijuana risk-benefit analysis.

– Seeing scores of new patients in one day is considered below the standard of care, “particularly given that physicians commonly afford new patients greater time.”

– Cole failed to document if she advised patients about proper dosages and the potential dangerous side-effects and interactions of medical marijuana, including the dangers of operating machinery and motor vehicles.

– Cole failed to recommend timely follow-up evaluations to assess the effectiveness of the medical marijuana treatment.

– Questions were raised about whether Cole had enough time to preview patients’ records-release consent forms and whether she allowed the Montana Caregivers Network, which organized the conference, to manage the patients’ records.

If that report was about my regular physician, I’d find myself a new one.

In Dr. Cole’s defense, there has been much more demand for medical marijuana recommendations in Montana than there has been a supply of doctors willing to write recommendations. Given the choice between recommending a benign, mostly harmless herbal remedy and seeing a sick person go without care because there just aren’t enough doctors to go around, Cole made the ethical decision.

Even so, is there any doubt that the standard of care from a random doctor in a convention center is likely to be much lower than the standard of care in your own doctor’s office?

I’m not saying patients should be forced to only use their family doctor for marijuana recommendations–all patients have the right to seek a second opinion–but doctors who prescribe medical marijuana have a special responsibility to both act and appear to act in accordance with all standard medical practices.

The public often suspects that the “medical” part of marijuana is just a convenient way to make it legal to get high. Those of us who use cannabis for medicinal purposes know this to be false, but it doesn’t help our case when people on our side play into our critics’ worst suspicions.

Furthermore, as someone who believes very strongly in the legalization of cannabis, I see state medical laws as an opportunity to show the country that cannabis users are responsible citizens. Irresponsible behavior on the part of our doctors does not help our cause.

Via Cannabis Culture.


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