Meds and you

03 April 2014

US doctors favour legalisation of medical marijuana

More doctors than consumers support the legalisation of medical marijuana. Support for medical marijuana is highest among oncologists.

The legalisation of medical marijuana has more support among US doctors than among consumers, a new survey found.

The survey of more than 1 500 doctors and nearly 3 000 consumers found that 69% of doctors said medical marijuana can help with certain conditions and treatments. Only 52% of consumers expressed that same belief.

A treatment option

Among doctors, 67% said they believed medical marijuana should be a treatment option for patients. Half of those doctors in states where medical marijuana isn't legal said it should be legalised, as did 52% of doctors in states considering such laws.

Watch: Marijuana used for medical benefits

Support for medical marijuana was highest among cancer specialists (oncologists) and blood disorder specialists (haematologists). For those two groups, 82% said marijuana can provide real benefits to patients. The same percentage said marijuana should be a treatment option for patients, according to the WebMD/Medscape survey.

Among consumers, 50% said medical marijuana should be legalised nationwide, including 49% of those in states where it is not legal. 45% said the benefits of medical marijuana outweigh the risks.

Support for legalization of marijuana for recreational use was lower among both doctors (53%) and consumers (51%), according to the survey, titled Marijuana on Main Street.

Limited research 

Currently, more than 10 states are considering bills to legalise medical marijuana.

Read: Canadian judge says medical marijuana too restricted

Peer-review research on the benefits of medical marijuana remains limited, the report noted.

"Despite more than 20 years of anecdotal evidence about the medicinal effects of marijuana, doctors and consumers remain in search of answers," Dr Michael Smith, WebMD's chief medical editor, said in a company news release.

"The findings of our consumer-physician survey indicate the medical community's support for the use of marijuana as a treatment option, particularly among clinical specialties that have pioneered research," Smith said.

"Yet these survey data suggest additional studies will inform decision-makers' confidence in where medical marijuana can help and where it might not," he added.

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