By: Evan Kaden
Despite the fact that students strongly supported marijuana legalization, when it came to the idea of actually prescribing it to medical patients, they were a bit uncertain.
Undoubtedly one of the hottest topics of the 21st century, medical marijuana is something that’s got everyone from scientists to senators with something to say. With 28 states and the District of Columbia with medical marijuana legislation currently in place, many people have their eyes on cannabis to see if it can help them with the various medical conditions it is said to contain.
There’s also another group of people whose opinion about medical marijuana has recently been published. A survey that came out in January was conducted to find out how Colorado medical students felt about the current and future marijuana use in a healthcare setting. There were 624 students who were invited to participate in this survey published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, with 236 students actually taking part. It’s known that Colorado has always been one of the leaders in marijuana reform both medically and recreationally, which is why the survey was chosen to be conducted in this state.
Despite the fact that students strongly supported marijuana legalization, when it came to the idea of actually prescribing it to medical patients, they were a bit uncertain. Hesitant in deciding to readily prescribe it to their future medical patients. According Michael Chan, one of the people conducting the survey and recent CU graduate, that “despite strong support for marijuana legal reform, students expressed hesitancy to recommend it themselves, suggesting that medical students may not believe that there is enough data to safely recommend its use to patients and/or may not feel sufficiently trained to prescribe it.”
Not surprisingly, it was the students that were from Colorado who supported medical cannabis the most. Those who grew up here have seen the progression cannabis has made since it became legal in the state in November of 2000. Students from other states with stricter marijuana laws were more prone to indecision regarding how they felt about prescribing marijuana to patients. The 127 students participating in the survey that had previously tried marijuana were also more in favor of its medical use than the 109 who had no previous experience with the plant.
Other noteworthy observations of the study included the potential for abuse students believed marijuana contains. Of the 236 surveyed students, 88 percent of them believed marijuana holds the potential for abuse. On a larger scale of statistical data, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 30 percent of people who use marijuana have some degree of marijuana use disorder.
The survey, conducted on students at the CU School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical campus in Aurora, also concluded that 97 percent of the students questioned believed that further research was needed to properly understand marijuana’s medical uses. This is in line with what many scientists believe as well. Because marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance, the extensive research necessary to offer more detailed conclusions about its effectiveness as medicine is difficult if not impossible to obtain.
There were also the students who participated in this survey that believed marijuana contained physical and mental side effects. The percentage of students who believe marijuana can cause harmful psychological damage was 77 percent, while 68 percent suggested cannabis could do physical harm.
Of the students surveyed, only 29 percent of them said they would prescribe marijuana under current legislation. Very few of them (6 percent) believed that current physicians should be penalized for recommending marijuana to a patient. Although many surveys have been taken to gather public opinion concerning medical marijuana legislation, this is the first that was conducted on Colorado medical students.
The conclusion of this study has shown while most medical students support marijuana legal reform, medicinal uses of the plant, and the need for increased research, they have legitimate apprehensions about recommending marijuana to patients. And although there have been great strides in the marijuana movement, there is apparently a long way to go.
While things like buying a bong and a bag have become much easier, the research necessary to have marijuana considered a legitimate prescription for medical use doesn’t seem to be meeting the criteria for these future physicians. In fact, it seems to be met with a certain uncertainty, and this by those who will soon be responsible for doing the prescribing.