Minnesota doctors are counting down the weeks to the launch of the state’s medical marijuana program with the same mix of hope, curiosity or concern as many of their patients.
Unlike their patients though, doctors will be watching from the sidelines this summer. They won’t write the prescriptions or decide how strong a dose of cannabis a patient will receive. In Minnesota, a doctor’s only role is to confirm that a patient has a qualifying condition — a yes or no answer on a Health Department form — before they send their sickest patients off to try their luck with the newly legalized drug.
“Then they’re out of the picture,” said Dr. Gregory Plotnikoff, an internal medicine specialist at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. “Someone else is then actually prescribing and adjusting the dose, and it’s not a physician with clinical experience. … It’s literally a pharmacist following an algorithm.”
While some doctors now are questioning that setup, when the Legislature was debating legalizing medical marijuana a year ago, that’s what the majority of doctors wanted. The law was written to shield doctors from the possible legal consequences of prescribing a federally banned substance.
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