CLEVELAND - On September 8 Ohio residents will be able to legally buy medical marijuana with a prescription. Whether they're able to find a doctor certified to write a prescription for it remains to be seen.
Two of the three companies approved to offer the two-hour educational course for interested doctors said the interest has been low.
"I think there's a stigma associated with the word marijuana and I think doctors are concerned," said Dr. Laurel Matthews, M.D. of Brecksville. "They're concerned they're going to create a dark shadow over their practice."
Dr. Matthews completed the course and is going to be voluntarily taking a 13-hour course but she still isn't sure she will seek the state certification to write prescriptions.
"Quite frankly I'm not even sure that the economics are going to support it," she said. "First of all you have to pay a $1,000 fee right off the bat to be allowed to recommend marijuana, for the licensing. The sounds like a punitive fee to me."
"I think that's a deterrent in and of itself, you don't even know if you're even going to see one patient. Then the question is what is the revenue stream? Will it be reimbursable through insurance, what's the reasonable cost to charge for these services," she said.
Matthews said a lot of concerns among physicians could be eased by medical leaders.
"Some degree of reassurance coming down from the medical board that they're not looking to be punitive towards doctors that embrace this new potential remedy for treating pain and other conditions," she said would help. "I think that doctors are concerned about oversight, getting in trouble with the medical board, threat to their practice."
Dr. Matthews, who is also a lawyer, believes many doctors also don't fully understand the possible uses of medical marijuana. She would like to see all doctors take the course whether they are going to be a provider or not and she'd like to see those certified to write prescriptions to take more than the two-hour course the state requires.
"Based on a two-hour class I wouldn't feel comfortable recommending it to any particular patient," she said. "I think I'd be comfortable determining who is a good candidate but as to dosing I think there are some complexities because a lot of patients are on opiates and so there need to be dose adjustments."
"I think there's going to be subtleties and complexities and before I would contemplate prescribing for patients or recommending for patients I feel like more education's required which is why I signed up for it."