Most Massachusetts Doctors Wary of Approving Marijuana Use

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A small circle of physicians — 13, to be precise — has provided the vast preponderance of approvals needed by Massachusetts patients to gain access to medical marijuana, state records show, a pattern that underscores the continued growing pains of a new industry.

These doctors certified nearly three-quarters of the 31,818 patients who had received permission to use medical marijuana by early June.

The concentration of approvals in the hands of so few physicians is a story of both opportunity and fear. For the baker’s dozen of doctors, medical marijuana certifications provide a robust stream of patients, who typically pay $200 out of pocket for an initial office visit.

But their grip on such a large share of patient certifications illustrates that many other physicians in the state are reluctant to sign off on patients using the drug, according to the Massachusetts Medical Society.

The hesitance reflects persistent concerns about the possible legal repercussions for their medical licenses if they prescribe a drug the federal government classifies as dangerous, with “no currently accepted medical use.” It also underscores the lingering doubts about marijuana’s health risks and benefits, said Dr. James Gessner, president of the society.

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