Opinion: Time to change the status of medical marijuana – Torrington Register Citizen

Given the shortage of physicians providing primary care, APRNs should be given equal prescribing capability in all facets of drug distribution.

Come 2022, it will be nearly 10 years since Connecticut has legalized the use of medical marijuana for patients with qualifying conditions. During this time, health care providers, both physicians and APRNs, have certified patients eligible for palliative use of medical marijuana. In acute care settings, Dronabinol, a synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol, has proven useful in improving appetite for patients with poor oral intake.

As the caregiver of a family member with qualifying conditions, I have witnessed the benefits of such medications. There are improvements to appetite, pain management and mood enhancement. “Overall, evidence suggests that cannabinoids are safe and moderately effective in neuropathic pain with preliminary evidence of efficacy in fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis,” a 2017 study found. In my previous assignments, pediatric patients with seizure history have had a notable reduction in seizure frequency when treated with sublingual cannabis.

However, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana is deemed a Schedule 1 substance along the lines of ecstasy and LSD. In the eyes of the federal government, it has no acceptable medical use. In the state of Connecticut, marijuana has been legalized for recreational use as of July 2021. It should go without saying that the current classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug is an antiquated classification, preventing use for patients with APRNs as their primary care-giver.

Currently, patients receiving care from APRNs as their primary care provider are limited by the prescribing limitation as Medicare/Medicaid is a federal program. Pharmacies are not allowed to produce or dispense marijuana. Providers are only certified to recommend the use of the drug for objective diagnosis of qualifying conditions.

As a federal benefits program, providers risk facing violations from Medicare/Medicaid when they do not adhere to federal mandates. As the federal government continues prevents the legalization of medical marijuana, APRNs in states with legalization will continue to be limited to serve their patient populations. Currently, officials in the state of Connecticut can prescribe Schedule II to Schedule V medications if these class distinctions are clearly stated in the collaborative practice agreement.

Reconsidering the substance classification for marijuana will serve as the first step in permitting the safe administration and prescribing of medical marijuana. Physicians and APRNs alike must be given autonomy to provide total care for their patients. Given these prescribing privileges, APRNs will continue to fill the gap of physician shortages and provide more holistic care to patients in their care.

Jenelle Dunstan is a registered nurse who lives in Hartford, and is an acute care nurse practitioner candidate at the University of Connecticut.

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