OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Enthusiasm for Oklahoma's medical marijuana laws could be tempered by hesitant doctors who will be responsible for recommending the drug to patients.
Two medical professionals told a legislative working group Wednesday that they want stricter medical marijuana regulations in the state. But nearly a dozen residents responded to the comments by saying the physicians aren't knowledgeable about the benefits of cannabis.
The state Board of Health initially adopted strict rules July 10 after voters legalized medical marijuana by passing State Question 788. The board revised the rules Aug. 1 following an attorney general's opinion saying the board overstepped its authority .
Doug Cox, a longtime physician and former lawmaker, told the working group that he was disappointed in the board's decision to do away with controversial emergency rules he supported. Among the rules eliminated this month were banning smokable marijuana sales and requiring each dispensary have an on-site pharmacist.
Cox said the current law seems recreational. He said he wouldn't recommend marijuana for patients unless they provide empirical evidence that the drug could treat their ailments.
"Don't be fooled that just because somebody has to go visit a doctor that that's going to prevent abuse," he said.
Doctors are legally restricted from having discussions with patients about medical marijuana because the drug remains a Schedule I substance under federal law, said Mike Mullins, an anesthesiologist.
But a federal appeals court ruled more than 15 years ago that it is unlawful to punish medical professionals for simply discussing the risks and benefits of marijuana with patients, said patient advocate Lawrence Pasternack.
The doctors also faced pushback from Republican Rep. Jon Echols, the working group's co-chair. Echols wrote Katie's and Cayman's Law, which authorized a medical pilot program using cannabidiol for patients with certain illnesses who are under physicians' care. Echols said cannabidiol was under the same federal classification when his bill became law as marijuana is right now.
Pasternack called for both doctors and lawmakers to adequately research cannabis.