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Medical Marijuana: Can Doctors Legally Prescribe it?

Once again, the issue of medical marijuana is up for debate and voting within the walls of Florida’s legislature. This issue is a recurring one for much of the country. It seems that each political season there is push to increase access to marijuana - both medicinal and recreational. But because it remains illegal to use or possess marijuana under federal law, these state efforts raise many questions.

One question that is asked in conjunction with new state medical marijuana laws is whether doctors are legally empowered to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients. Another question is the legal status of a user who chooses to take medical or recreational marijuana. What laws are they breaking, and what effect can that have on their lives?

Doctors and Medical Marijuana

Doctors derive their licensing from states who authorize them to practice medicine in that state. But their authority to prescribe medications, including controlled substances, comes from the the federal government. That is because the FDA regulates and determines which drugs can be used on the public and which cannot. So the problem is clear, how can a doctor prescribe a medicine with federal authority when federal law declares it an illegal substance.

Medical marijuana has been around the longest in California where people can use it for ailments that marijuana is known to relieve. This issue of the doctors and marijuana was recently heard and decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court, speaking only for the 9th Circuit (comprising California, Oregon, and other western states) issued an injunction against the federal government from punishing doctors who “recommend” marijuana to their patients. The court declared that it violated doctors’ First Amendment Right to free expression.

Some might see this ruling as a loophole where doctors recommend medical marijuana, not prescribe it. While it is clear that if they prescribed it they would be in danger of forfeiting their license to prescribe substances controlled by the FDA, according to that court this represents a distinction.

Medical Marijuana and Florida

It is not yet clear how this issue will play out in Florida if the legislature passes medical marijuana laws. The courts in Florida are not bound to decision made by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California and other western states. One this is for sure, no matter what happens it will involve risk for both doctors and patients until federal law changes and legalizes marijuana.

Another issue is clear, as well. If doctors choose to prescribe medical marijuana they must do so reasonably or face the consequences if their patients are injured as a result. Doctors have a duty to their patients to practice medicine reasonably, and when they fail to do so, they will be held responsible for the damages that happen.

At The Pittman Firm, our firm is dedicated to helping victims of negligence, medical malpractice, and other causes of action recover for their pain and suffering. If you are suffering from the effects of one of these causes, or for another reason, contact us.

See related posts: Florida Lawmakers Pass Hot Car Law; Florida Court Dismisses Costa Concordia Case.


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