Samples of medical cannabis from manufacturer Minnesota Medical Solutions are displayed in Otsego, Minn., on May 5, 2015. Minnesota law allows registered patients to purchase non-smokable marijuana, in pill form or vials of infused oil. (Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune file via AP)

Survey: Minnesota doctors feel conflicted about medical marijuana

Many doctors are reluctant to prescribe marijuana, citing worry over opioid abuse and a fear of being challenged by patients, as well as a lack of education

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A new survey shows many doctors in Minnesota are reluctant to accept medical marijuana as a treatment option.

The survey was released Tuesday to the state’s Task Force on Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research. It was conducted by task force member Dr. Charles Reznikoff, an addiction specialist at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Reznikoff sought opinions on medical marijuana from 262 doctors at four institutions across Minnesota. The majority of doctors said the qualifying conditions need to be clearer, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

Many doctors said they don’t want to be burdened by the program, for which sales of medical marijuana pills, oils and vapors began in July. They also said they are nervous about registering patients, and worry about it at a time when so many people are abusing opioids.

“There is a lot of worry about the opioid thing,” Reznikoff said.

The agency added “intractable pain” late last year to nine other qualifying conditions, but sales won’t start until August.

The survey found that doctors’ opinions about marijuana might be stopping them from certifying patients to use the drug, while other physicians say they’re not ready for challenging conversations and disputes that might cause patients to leave.

A lack of education could be the reason some doctors aren’t on board with medical marijuana, the survey found. Reznikoff said there have been only a few educational events aimed at health care providers.

“There is no ethical obligation for a provider to, on their own, adopt this,” Reznikoff said. “This isn’t aspirin for heart attacks.”

The Minnesota Department of Health says 479 practitioners are registered and authorized to certify patients to buy medical marijuana, and there are 844 patients approved to get the drug. The task force was appointed to study Minnesota’s medical marijuana program, and is preparing a report on research findings for the state Legislature this year.

Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News