Majority of Doctors Support Medical Cannabis for Children…But That Doesn’t Mean They’ll Prescribe It

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A recent study showed that 92 percent of doctors would be agreeable to provide medical cannabis for cancer. They’re hesitant however, to offer it to children because of the federal government’s firm stance against medical marijuana. As has been the case with several other instances, authors of the study that was published in Pediatrics also noted that lack of research for their hesitation.

Doctors are Willing to Provide Medical Cannabis to Children, But Many Remain Cautious

It’s not that doctors have a problem with prescribing medical cannabis. Those that are eligible to provide it are simply cautious to do so because of federal statute.

“It’s not surprising,” says Kelly Michaelson MD, who co-authored the study, “that providers who are eligible to certify for medical marijuana were more cautious about recommending it, given that their licensure could be jeopardized due to federal prohibition.”

The study took place in three states with medical marijuana laws currently in place. Washington, Massachutsetts, and Illinois were all included in the study. Michaelson believes that institutional policies could also be a reason doctors might not recommend medical cannabis, even though legal in the state they practice medicine.  

“Institutional policies also may have influenced their attitudes,” Michaelson said. “Lurie Children’s, for example, prohibits pediatric providers from facilitating medical marijuana access in accordance with the federal law, even though it is legal in Illinois.”

Federal Restrictions Make Research Almost Impossible

Because of the federal government’s firm stance against medical cannabis, research on the benefits of cannabis for children is lacking. Without getting the green light from the federal government, the research simply isn’t possible.

This is also something Michaelson took note of.

“In addition to unclear dosage guidelines, the lack of high-quality scientific data that medical marijuana benefits outweigh possible harm is a huge concern for providers accustomed to evidence-based practice,” Michelson said. “We need rigorously designed clinical trials on the use of medical marijuana in children with cancer.”

Until the government recognizes the benefits of medical marijuana, the clinical trials necessary aren’t likely to take place. Regardless, most doctors agree that prescribing medical cannabis is something they would easily do.

Only two percent of doctors surveyed said they would not feel comfortable providing medical cannabis to children in any situation. The majority concluded that medical cannabis was a much practicable for children with advanced stages of cancer, or for those facing the end of their life, rather than those with early stages of the disease.

Even though most doctors agree that cannabis should be available for children, for now it’s still illegal at the federal level. Until more studies can be legally conducted on the benefits of cancer for kids, it will likely continue to only be used in the worst-case scenarios.

We can hope that in 2018, the federal government reschedules marijuana. More research is necessary that would ultimately allow sick children (and adults alike) to have all treatment options for available to them.

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Jen Keehn is a Colorado-based writer intent on inspiring others to live their best lives. She writes regularly about medical and recreational cannabis, holistic health, addiction, and psychedelic therapy.

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