Brace yourself for last week’s “Who’s prescribing marijuana?” by Todd Feathers in the Lowell Sun. It’s a pathetic slanted story posing as a fair and balanced piece, a medical marijuana article with no patients, reefer madness front and center.
Leading the charge this time is Dr. Dennis Dimitri, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS), who questions whether doctors in the Bay State recommending cannabis have bonafide relationships with patients. The article singles out Dr. John Nadolny of Canna Care Docs who, according to the Department of Public Health, certified the most patients in Mass from October 2014 to October 2015. In short, the article calls out a “niche industry” of compassionate doctors who have filled a void in the Commonwealth. “It does seem,” claimed Dimitri, “that these clinics exist for one reason and one reason only.”
It’s the same old boilerplate BS from the Sun, a paint-by-numbers corporate media hit piece. They grabbed some quotes from the top reefer mad chain doctors, who in turn complained that marijuana as medicine is too complicated. The same docs often say pot is addictive, and campaigned against successful ballot initiatives in 2008 and 2012. Now they’re the voices of reason? It’s almost as if the Sun editors think people lack a short-term memory, and can’t recall that the people of Mass voted in favor of the non-toxic, non-addictive medicine.
Let’s dig deeper — into a state of affairs in which only a couple dozen doctors write the majority of recommendations for cannabis in the Commonwealth. As a card-carrying patient who received my recommendation from Dr. Nadolny, I have a different take. My examination with Canna Care was thorough and highly educational. It lasted over an hour, and the doctor even spent additional time addressing a health concern unrelated to marijuana — the fact that I am still using tobacco. Unlike physicians who give patients less than 10 minutes, Dr. Nadolny connected with me, and even offered a personal story about his own past nicotine use. The whole experience was nothing like my past appointments with corporate chain physicians who have offered me pill prescriptions for pain.
I should mention that my own recommendation from Canna Care was free-of-charge, and that the docs sponsor my WEMF Radio show, “The Young Jurks.” If the Sun asked, they would have learned that Canna Care has already given away more than $200,000 in evaluations, and that they offer patients with severe debilitating conditions services at free or reduced rates. Their policy is that “no patient should face criminal prosecution for their choice of natural medicine because of an inability to pay,” and they also offer discounts to veterans.
This gets to the real story on medical marijuana. Medicine as we know it is broken. Costs are through the roof, and doctors spend less and less time with patients. Dr. Jordan Tishler of Inhale MD Medical Consulting in Cambridge shines more light on matters: “The reason that most primary care docs haven’t done the [certification] is that their institutions won’t allow them to certify anyway. Also, since so few physicians know anything about [marijuana] to begin with, it’s outside their comfort zone. In general, when I speak to groups at the major institutions, which I do a lot, the reception is great, eager and interested, very rarely oppositional.”
Tishler continues: “There’s a lot more going on than trying to block access. Medicine is a troubled system in general, docs don’t have time to do all that’s required of them as it is. [Medical marijuana] is only a minor footnote in that problem. That level of specialized knowledge and the time it takes to really care for a [medical marijuana] patient is why I and a few others, like Dr. Uma Dhanabalan, do what we do.”
According to Tishler, articles like the hit piece in the Sun imply “that the law is too liberal and that the government should be more involved in regulating patient-doctor relationships and restricting the judgement of physicians.” Meanwhile, “the judgement of physicians in this matter is exactly what makes the [Massachusetts] law flexible and helpful to patients, and a model for the nation. The implication that pain, insomnia, and anxiety are not appropriate for physicians to treat with [medical marijuana] misses both the spirit and the science of Cannabis therapeutics.”
If honchos with the MMS were actually interested in curbing the opiate crisis, they would be recommending that all doctors become certified and educated on medical marijuana as a first response for pain. Instead, they discourage the use of cannabis, a less harmful alternative to opiate pain pills. Instead of advocating for patients, MMS goes after MDs who are actually helping patients.
Gutless, and all overlooked, unreported by the Sun.
Mike Crawford is a medical marijuana patient, the host of “The Young Jurks” on WEMF Radio, and the author of the weekly column The Tokin’ Truth, which is produced in coordination with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He formerly wrote the column Blunt Truth under the name Mike Cann.