ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missourians looking for physicians to certify them to buy medical marijuana when it becomes available next year are running into resistance from doctors who are reluctant to prescribe the substance.
Instead, would-be users are turning to pop-up and specialty clinics advertising certification for about $200 or less.
"The simple fact is that most doctors are uninformed about the use of marijuana as medicine," said Dan Viets, the head of the Missouri Medical Cannabis Industry Association.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Missouri is the 33rd state to legalize marijuana for medical use. In other states, most marijuana patients have been certified by a small number of independent physicians or marijuana-specific clinics, Viets said.
The state's physicians' lobby Missouri Medical Association opposed the ballot initiative voters approved in November that legalized medical marijuana. The association isn't taking a stance on whether doctors should certify medical marijuana patients but isn't recommending it.
Marijuana isn't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and the federal government classifies it as an illegal drug. There are no federally approved standard dosages or safety testing and no insurance coverage. All that is leading some doctors to shy away from certifying patients.
"I don't think doctors are hostile," Viets said. "But most doctors work for somebody other than their patients: a hospital or a clinic or some type of corporation, and in many cases it's that corporation which is reluctant."
The medical association thinks all treatments and therapies should be studied rigorously and be "evidence based," said Jeff Howell, director of legislative affairs. "Marijuana does not currently meet those standards."
Specialty clinics are filling in the gaps.
Psychiatrist Zinia Thomas has certified more than 30 people for medical marijuana at her alternative medicine clinic in Brentwood. On June 15, she offered to certify people at a party at Fried STL, a downtown cannabis-themed restaurant that serves fried food.
Thomas said the intent was to offer a stigma-free place where for $99 qualifying patients could get certified after providing their medical records, watching an informational video, undergoing a psychiatric exam and visiting with her.
"We're bringing it to them, in an environment where they're comfortable and feel free as a patient, not a sort of 'illegal drug user,'" she said.
To qualify for medical marijuana, a patient must have one of several conditions including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, migraines or PTSD.
The Missouri process for doctors to certify patients to buy marijuana started on June 4. Residents can start applying with the state on June 28.