Jeff Sessions shook the cannabis industry Thursday, announcing the end of marijuana-friendly guidelines instituted by the Obama administration. The hue and cry among the recreational crowd garnered the most headlines over the ensuing few days, but what about the patients? What do health professionals think about the sudden policy change?
“This is an unprovoked attack on my patients for no good reason,” Dr. Gerard Rodziewicz, a Fayetteville, N.Y. doctor treating 1,200 patients with medical marijuana, told NYup.com.
New York has nearly 40,000 patients registered for the state’s medical marijuana program. Rodziewicz told NYup.com that his patients use medical marijuana instead of highly addictive opioid drugs like oxycodone to treat pain. “Nobody is getting a buzz,” he said. “We have people coming off opioids and going back to work.”
Cannabis Cultural Association, a New York-based nonprofit, also hammered Sessions’ attempt to rein in medical marijuana, calling the move “a step backward for sensible, positive cannabis reform.”
“Rescinding the Cole Memorandum threatens patients’ access to life-saving medication and thwarts restoration of communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition, while jeopardizing the careers of over 150,000 full-time cannabis industry employees and the collection of billions of dollars in valuable tax revenues,” said Nelson Guerrero, co-founder of the Cannabis Cultural Association. “We believe that it is critical for our local, state, and particularly federal elected officials to take all actions necessary to protect the positive progress we’ve made toward federally legalizing cannabis, creating new well-paying jobs, saving patients’ lives, and working to restore the rights of people who have been harmed by prohibition,” he added.
Ross Morreale, chairman of the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois, agreed with Guerrero. “It’s very concerning and alarming. Unfortunately, the attorney general is out of touch with the American people.”
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Dr. Junella Chin practiced medicine in California for more than 13 years before moving to New York three years ago. She sees Sessions’ misguided decision as bad for public health and bad for patients. “As a physician with an integrative medical cannabis practice that spans over a decade, I have real obligations to my patients. This will affect our practice by perpetuating fear and doubt in the populace and renewing the war on cannabis,” she said.
“Other physicians will be even less likely to recommend cannabis. For example, a large part of the New York program’s lack of success is the low number of physicians educating themselves and willing to certify qualified patients. If there are no doctors certifying, there are not enough patients going to the dispensaries, thus the prices of the medicine will remain high and out of reach for many,” Chin added.
She is increasingly frustrated by many medical professionals’ lack of understanding of medicinal cannabis. “A majority of my colleagues still believe that ‘good people don’t smoke marijuana’ ” Chin said, echoing the infamous phrase Sessions uttered last year.