DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Only about 325 of Iowa's 7,000 doctors have certified people for the state's new medical marijuana program, in part because many are uneasy about their role in the system.
Doctors certify that patients have qualifying medical conditions but don't prescribe medical marijuana products, The Des Moines Register reported . Instead, five dispensaries will sell to patients who have obtained specials state cards for having conditions such as intractable pain, cancer or epilepsy.
Fewer than 600 patients have been approved to participate in the program, which will launch Dec. 1.
Des Moines oncologist Richard Deming, who's the director of Mercy Medical Center's cancer center, said he's uncomfortable with the program because the products haven't been proven safe and effective. Deming said he's also concerned that there aren't scientifically established dosing levels.
"This whole law is not the way health care should be provided to patients," he said. "This is just not the way we handle any other medication."
Deming said that while there's some evidence marijuana products help cancer patients cope with the side effects of chemotherapy, the federal government should ease research limits to allow scientists to learn more.
Des Moines physician Steven Adelman has certified one patient with a severe case of epilepsy for the program. Adelman said many physicians want more research on the issue.
"We'd like to have more science," he said. "It's not that we're against medical marijuana, we just want to have more evidence that it will help our patients ...The hype has really preceded the science."
Lucas Nelson is the general manager of MedPharm, one of the state's legal medical marijuana producers. He said he's frustrated by doctors' reluctance.
"I think that does patients a great disservice, because if nothing else, patients should be able to come to their doctor, have a discussion about this," Nelson said.