Colorado Family Doctor Attitudes To Medical Marijuana

With medical marijuana gaining more credibility in recent years, doctors are becoming increasingly accepting of it – but it appears not much has changed in Colorado.

Medical cannabis use has been legal in Colorado since 2000 after 54% of the state’s voters supported allowing the use of marijuana for approved patients with written medical consent. This was followed by Amendment 64 being passed by voters in November 2012, which led to recreational legalization the following month and state-licensed retail sales kicking off in January 2014. Since that year, more than USD $12 billion worth of marijuana has been sold in the state.

With the state awash, a survey carried out by researchers from the Department of Family Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine sought to discover if recreational marijuana legalization, a wider range of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis and other changes increasing access had an impact on physician attitudes.

The researchers distributed a survey in 2020 to 1582 members of the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians and compared the results to a near-identical survey conducted with the same group in 2011. 235 responses were recorded; a 15%  response rate compared to 30% obtained for the original 2011 survey.

The findings have just been published, and they are quite interesting as nothing changed in terms of the proportion recommending medical marijuana to patients; 31%, the same as in 2011.  53% of physicians indicated legislation allowing recreational marijuana did not change their approach.

However, in the 2020 survey family physicians were more likely to agree:

  • The FDA should reclassify marijuana from being a Schedule I drug
  • That marijuana should be legalized for recreational use
  • That medical marijuana should be distributed through the current dispensary model
  • That related training should be integrated into medical school curricula.

In their conclusion, the researchers state:

“This study affirms that, even as the regulatory landscape shifted from 2011 to 2020, the increasing number of permitted medical uses of medical marijuana and permission of recreational marijuana use has not led to decreased perception of the risks of marijuana use or increased formal recommendation of marijuana to patients by family physicians.”

While not much has changed in terms of the proportion of doctors recommending, 31% is still very high compared to many other jurisdictions.

The full study report can be viewed in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

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