If medical marijuana were legal in Minnesota, would doctors prescribe it?

After the doctors on our Round Table wrapped up their discussion about the costs of health care, we asked them “If medical marijuana were legal in Minnesota, would you prescribe it?”

Meghan Walsh, chief medical education officer at Hennepin County Medical Center, said:

Yes. It’s not a simple answer to a simple question. Depending on safety, and form, and what it would mean to prescribe it. I do think that when there is a need, particularly around antiemetics – anti-nausea – that there is a lot of benefit to our cancer patients with some sort of medical marijuana.

Appetite stimulation, too. There is good data for improving appetite. Particularly for someone with cachexia.

I think the slippery slope falls into pain control. I think that is where it gets political and dangerous. I worry that is then you have every Tom, Dick, and Harry (say) “it hurts when I do this…can I have marijuana?”

Jim Pacala, associate head of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, said he would use it in some cases, too:

I’m not an expert in it, but certainly if the evidence is there that it is effective. I would use anything to help my patients. When you’re talking about particularly anti-emetics, you have a fairly limited rage of therapeutic options. And I think if you have something that works under a different mechanism. If it worked along the same mechanism as drugs we already have, I wouldn’t care as much. But it’s my understanding that it works under a different mechanism. And that gives you something else to work, to try.

Craig Bowron, hospitalist at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, mentioned another important use for medical marijuana:

It’s good for spastic muscles. So for people who have quadriplegia, paraplegia. They can use it sometimes for that.

But when Kerri asked if he’d give it to his patients to use it for cancer pain, he said that he wouldn’t prescribe it:

It’s not an analgesic.