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Physician Attitudes: Prescribing Cannabis to Cancer Patients A Look at a New England Journal of Medicine Survey

Medical Marijuana : A Hot Topic 

The issue of medical marijuana use continues to been a controversial topic.

Historically, physicians have been less approving of medical marijuana than the general public. Is this changing?

20 states and the District of Columbia have now approved marijuana use for medical purposes.

NEJM Survey ď‚—

Many surveys have been conducted over the years to gauge physician attitudes about medical marijuana use.


In early 2013 the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) conducted an international survey among its readers about whether readers approved of medical marijuana.

NEJM Survey, cont’d 

NEJM presented the case of a 68-year-old woman with metastatic breast cancer as an example for readers and asked hypothetically whether she should be prescribed medical marijuana to help alleviate her symptoms.

Survey Results ď‚—

1,446 votes in total were cast and included people in 72 countries and 56 states/provinces in North America.


76% voted in favor of marijuana use for medicinal purposes.

Survey Results, cont’d 

The majority (1,063) of the votes came from the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

The percentage of U.S. survey-takers who voted in favor of medical marijuana varied drastically from one state to the next.

In Pennsylvania, for example, 96% of voters were in support of medical marijuana, while just 1% of voters in Utah were in favor.

NEJM Survey Comments 

Despite the number of physicians surveyed who support medical marijuana use, there is still significant debate in the medical community.

Opponents of medical marijuana point out that smoking cannabis could hurt the lungs, and they cite lack of evidence of marijuana’s efficacy as well as negative side effects including memory, psychomotor and other impairments, among other issues.

NEJM Survey Comments, cont’d 

Supporters of medical marijuana cited feeling a sense of responsibility as a physician to relive patient suffering, while others reported having witnessed first-hand the benefits their patients experienced using medicinal marijuana.

Supporters also pointed out the dangers of prescription narcotics as compared to marijuana.

Finding Common Ground ď‚—

There was at least one issue that physicians on opposing sides of the argument could agree on, however:  While the majority would recommend the use of medicinal marijuana in certain circumstances, both sides largely agreed that more evidence is needed on the efficacy and safety of medical marijuana.

Read more about the NEJM survey here.

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Physician Attitudes: Prescribing Cannabis to Cancer Patients  

Medical marijuana continues to be a controversial topic, with physicians divided over whether to prescribe cannabis to alleviate painful sym...