How to Talk to Your Doctor About Medical Marijuana

Let’s immediately address the elephant in the room: marijuana is a controversial substance which has been painted in an intensely negative light by decades of moral condemnation, punitive legislation, and fear-mongering media coverage and public service announcements. For many patients, particularly those among the older generations, asking their doctor about medical marijuana just isn’t as easy as inquiring about the benefits of “normal” medications produced by pharmaceutical manufacturers.  Speaking frankly, best-selling, name-brand prescription drugs are not scheduled substances: they simply don’t invoke the same attitudes and anxieties.

It’s perfectly understandable if broaching the subject of medical Cannabis initially makes you feel uncomfortable — just keep reminding yourself that your health and well-being is what matters most.  Managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life absolutely takes precedence over your doctor’s personal feelings.  If your doctor is scornful, judgmental, or dismissive of your questions about medical Cannabis on any basis which is not purely medical, consider getting a second opinion from a physician who will respect your concerns and focus not on bias and belief, but on helping you feel better.  That is, after all, any doctor’s job — not chastising patients for being proactive about their health.

We’ve written this article to help give nervous, hesitant, or inexperienced patients some basic guidance on how to open up the conversation about medical marijuana. Once you’ve obtained a diagnosis, we invite you to call Inhale MD at (617) 477-8886 to talk with Dr. Jordan Tishler about getting started as a Massachusetts medical marijuana patient in a private consultation.  Dr. Tishler has more than 20 years of experience treating clients for a wide variety of conditions, and can help you understand some of the healthcare options that may be available to you.

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Is it Legal to Ask Your Doctor About Getting a Marijuana Prescription?

First and foremost, let’s establish that asking your doctor about the health benefits of medical marijuana is not illegal. You will not be reported to the police, and will not be criminally charged simply for asking about whether Cannabis could help your symptoms.  In fact, in the 2002 case of Conant v. Walters, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of protecting patients and physicians’ right to seek and share medical information about therapeutic Cannabis. Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder stated the following in a written opinion:

The order enjoins the federal government from either revoking a physician’s license to prescribe controlled substances or conducting an investigation of a physician that might lead to such revocation, where the basis for the government’s action is solely the physician’s professional “recommendation” of the use of medical marijuana.

Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski concurred, adding, “It is well established that the right to hear — the right to receive information — is no less protected by the First Amendment than the right to speak.”

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What Medical Conditions Does Cannabis Treat?

Now that you (hopefully) feel more comfortable about your legal rights, it’s time to start asking your physician about the “nuts and bolts” of medical Cannabis use: in other words, the actual conditions and symptoms it can treat, and whether yours is on the list.

In the state of Massachusetts, all of the following conditions qualify for medical marijuana in accordance with the Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana

  • ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
  • MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
  • Parkinson’s Disease

The next set of conditions aren’t mentioned by name in the Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana. However, they still have the potential to qualify for treatment with medicinal Cannabis.  This is what the language of the Act means when it refers to “other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician.”  These conditions include:

  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Back Pain
  • Chronic Insomnia
  • Chronic Pain
  • Depression
  • RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis)
  • Ulcerative Colitis

If you have been diagnosed with any of these conditions and have had limited success with traditional treatment methods, using medicinal marijuana in conjunction with your standard medications may be able to help you more effectively manage your pain, increase your mobility, and/or improve poor appetite.

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Questions for Patients to Ask Their Physicians

On one hand, evaluating the details of your medical history and current condition is your doctor’s job — that’s why you see a doctor in the first place!  On the other hand, the more informed you are about your own health, the more empowered and confident you will feel about effectively managing your illness or injury going into the future.

Consider asking your doctor the following questions about using medical marijuana where applicable:

  • Can you point me toward any medical studies about Cannabis being used to treat patients with my condition?
  • What sort of healthcare costs should I expect if I start purchasing medical marijuana?
  • Are there any adverse health effects or possible complications I should be aware of?
  • What are some good sources to get more information about medical Cannabis?
  • I have children/pets. Is second-hand smoke going to be a problem?
  • Should I avoid using medical marijuana if I’m pregnant/breastfeeding?
  • Will marijuana have dangerous interactions with my other medications?
  • Will marijuana make my current medications less effective?
  • Are there any activities I should avoid while using medical marijuana?

These are all important questions.  Don’t be shy about speaking up: you deserve sound, neutral, professional medical advice when it comes to taking care of your health.

While it’s important to ask questions, your doctor may not be ready with the in-depth answers you need. When discussing medical Cannabis with your physician, you should also ask your doctor for a referral to a specialist who focuses on treating patients with medical marijuana.  That is our mission at Inhale MD.

If your quality of life is being negatively impacted by a serious medical condition, you may be a good candidate for medical Cannabis. Call Dr. Tishler at (617) 477-8886 to start discussing the health benefits of medical marijuana in a private consultation.

MA specifically qualified conditions:

And other debilitating conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician, which may include:

  • Chronic back pain
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Insomnia
  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression