Diverging Doctors

How do MDs feel about New York’s medical marijuana bill?

To say there is little consensus in the medical community about the efficacy and appropriate use of medical marijuana hardly does justice to the spectrum of doctors’ opinions about the issue. Here in New York, where the Compassionate Care Act of 2014 makes medical marijuana legal for a very limited number of medical illnesses, doctors are split over whether the law goes far enough.   

Neurologist Steven Wolf, MD, director of Pediatric Epilepsy at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, supports the bill’s restrictive nature, as compared with more permissive medical marijuana legislation in states like Colorado and Washington.” “[New York State] tried to take a really smart approach,” Dr. Wolf says. “They want to learn about mistakes that other states made in implementing and controlling [medical marijuana bills] and really try to educate the public as well as the doctors about who are the right patients for this medication.”

But New York City-based psychiatrist and editor of The Pot Book, Julie Holland, MD, views the law as overly restrictive. “New York is insisting on oils and concentrates, and they’re not allowing the whole [marijuana] flower to be used as a medicine, which is odd because that’s the way it’s been used as a medicine for thousands of years,” says Dr. Holland. She cites what’s known as the “entourage effect,” the idea that all of the 400-plus active compounds in a cannabis plant, 60 of which can be psychoactive, work in concert to promote health. “I’m not happy that the New York law turns it into this sort of standardized commodity that takes away the nature and, dare I say, the magic, of the plant,” she says.

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Still, Dr. Holland adds, there’s “no question the law is better than nothing, but it’s not a lot better than nothing.”

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