A growing number of doctors are taking the opportunity to warn their patients about the bill, which is set to go to the House of Representatives this week.
While many physicians have been cautiously optimistic about the potential benefits of medical cannabis, others have been concerned about the drug’s potential to cause a number of side effects, including psychosis and anxiety.
“This bill has been described as ‘a dangerous, regressive drug’ by one physician, “said Dr. Steven C. Vliet of the University of North Carolina Medical Center, which has been among those who have signed onto a letter urging Congress to stop the bill.
While the bill is not expected to have any immediate effects on patients, many of the doctors who have been speaking out are concerned about its potential to exacerbate the opioid epidemic in their state.
“There is a lot of concern that the bill would exacerbate this opioid crisis, especially among the children of patients who are already experiencing this issue,” Dr. Jennifer E. Hager of the VA North Memorial Hospital said.
“If you have a child, it’s almost inevitable that you will get into an opioid addiction,” said Dr. John P. Smith of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
“And it is very important that they get help to manage it.”
The bill has attracted bipartisan support from both the White House and Democrats.
But the House has already approved amendments that would limit how many patients can receive the drug.
The Senate version of the bill has also been pushed back, meaning it will likely be voted on by the House on Wednesday and sent back to the Senate.
“It’s going to be very, very difficult to pass this,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who has sponsored several amendments that have been introduced to restrict access to the drug, such as one that would bar doctors from prescribing it to patients under the age of 26.
“They’re trying to put this into law, but I just don’t see how they can pass it without a very strong majority,” Thune said.
Dr. Andrew Siegel, president of the American College of Physicians, echoed concerns.
“The most important thing for doctors is to be vigilant and be able to talk to their patients, and that’s really all they can do,” Siegel said.
“They can’t just say, ‘I’ve got the answer and I’m going to prescribe it.'”
Some doctors, however, are taking a more cautious approach to their concerns, and are instead asking patients to contact their physicians and ask about medical cannabis.
“As a physician, I’m very concerned about this,” Dr., Dr. Amy Loomis of the Yale-New Haven Hospital told ABC News.
“The most significant thing I’ve been hearing from patients is that they’re really concerned about their care.”
While Dr. Loomas is not against the use of medical marijuana, she believes the bill may have an adverse effect on some patients who may not have the same options available to them.
“We need to educate the American public about the medical use of cannabis,” Loomais said.