Medical Marijuana Hot Issue at Chapters Meeting

The Chapters Council meets four times a year, but three of them are conference calls. The chance to discuss topics and interact face-to-face with colleagues makes the Med-Sci Conference Council an important annual event.

Thursday evening’s meeting included discussions on medical marijuana, potentially broadening ASAM’s membership requirements and reports from state chapters.

“It is always good to hear what new and different things other states are doing to recruit, retain and educate members,” said Richard Soper, M.D., J.D., M.S., FASAM, Chapters Council chair.

Medical marijuana has again become a contentious issue. Eighteen additional states have approved use of medical marijuana, while Montana, which had approved its use for the past six years, repealed its consent. Regardless of its legislature’s stance, every state chapter has been affected by this matter, and members weren’t shy about voicing their thoughts and experiences.

“The discussion wasn’t to take a position on the issue, but to talk about the science and policy behind it,” Dr. Soper said. “We as physicians do not condone inhalant use of other substances, yet turn around and say OK to the use of something even less standardized. It’s a thorny dichotomy.”

In some states, such as California, patients need only to call their doctor to get a prescription for medical marijuana.

“There was an interesting discussion about physicians being asked to provide a prescription for something with no continuity of care,” Dr. Soper said. “What are the ramifications of certifying a prescription for a patient you’ve never had an encounter with?”

Adding to the discussion, Andrea Barthwell, M.D., FASAM, and ASAM past-president, presented an update on the ASAM medical marijuana white paper.

Another lively dialogue focused on expanding ASAM’s membership standards.

“There has been a lot of push in medicine over the last 20 years to have a more collegial, team approach to patient care. Nurse practitioners, physicians, PhDs and pharmacists now all work together to inform the process,” Dr. Soper said. “This is a good conversation that arises every few years, and it’s always an important one to have.”

Although no formal votes were held on any of the topics, he said he felt the evening was worthwhile.

“Everything discussed was for informational purposes,” Soper said. “I thought we had some good give-and-take. It was a productive meeting.”