Opinions vary among physicians
about the value of prescribing marijuana, suggested previous studies. Colorado students viewed the legalization of marijuana favorably,
medicinal or otherwise, and generally felt that the medical use of
marijuana is acceptable in the treatment of conditions approved by the
Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry.
Nearly half (49%) felt that
it had significant physical health benefits and 37% believed it
had mental health benefits. This contrasts with other studies, which
found that most Colorado family physicians would only recommend
marijuana for patients who suffer from pain or cancer and that only 27% of physicians thought it had significant physical health
‘Colorado students viewed the legalization of marijuana favorably, medicinal or otherwise, and felt that the medical use of marijuana is acceptable in the treatment of conditions approved by the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry.’
The study, "Colorado Medical Students' Attitudes and Beliefs about Marijuana," was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine
by Springer. It investigated the attitudes of medical students in
Colorado, a state that has long been at the forefront of marijuana legal
"Despite strong support for marijuana legal reform, students
expressed hesitancy to recommend it themselves, suggesting that medical
students may not believe that there is enough data to safely recommend
its use to patients and/or may not feel sufficiently trained to
prescribe it," said Chan, now a resident at the University of Texas
Health Science Center.
These reforms have seen the decriminalization of marijuana on many
fronts in recent years. In Colorado, it is legal for adults to use it
for medicinal and recreational purposes.
To add further insights into
the matter, Chan's team set out to find out what medical students at the
CU School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus thought about the
drug's use. In all, 236 of the 624 students contacted by e-mail
completed the survey.
Students who grew up in Colorado were more in favor of medical
marijuana than those who did not grow up there. This was also true for
the 127 students who reported having used marijuana before. This finding
is in line with previous studies showing that people with histories of
substance use, including marijuana, believe the risk of adverse effects
is relatively low.
The students were nearly unanimous (97%) in calling for
further research into the medical usefulness of marijuana. Most
expressed concern about possible physical (68%) and mental (77%) consequences, while 88% thought it could be addictive.
Chan and co-author Dan Matlock are now working to study how students
are being educated about medical marijuana and its potential for health
"Clearly, medical students have a need for excellent education on
marijuana," said Matlock and associate professor of geriatrics
at the CU School of Medicine. "There's a lot we don't know and,
medically, there is so little data."