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Jim Shaw

Shaw: It's time for doctors to get on board with medical marijuana

FARGO — Medical marijuana is now available around here. Many of those receiving it are delighted by the results. Wayne Roisum, 75, of Erhard, Minn., gets his medical marijuana every six weeks from the Moorhead dispensary. Roisum takes the cannabis because he has neuropathy, which is a painful nerve condition that has made it unable for him to sleep. He tried nine other treatments, but none of them worked.

“Medical marijuana is a godsend,” Roisum said. “There are no side effects. It allows me to sleep and has dramatically reduced my pain.”

The problem is that most patients around here who need medical marijuana can’t get it. Local doctors won’t certify their patients. Thus, suffering people can’t receive their medical marijuana cards, which allows them to purchase the product.

According to the North Dakota Department of Health, only 380 people in the state are allowed to receive medical marijuana. However, experts say there are about 8,000 people in North Dakota who qualify to take it. Rilie Ray Morgan of Fargo led the effort to get medical marijuana overwhelmingly approved by North Dakota voters. He says he’s heard from hundreds of frustrated people who would be helped by medical marijuana, but can’t find a doctor to certify them.

“It’s a huge problem, “ Morgan said. “A lot of doctors are ill-informed. They’re needlessly nervous about it. I don’t know why they won’t consider this as a substitute treatment.”

Among those frustrated patients is Judy Bennett, 60, of Jamestown. Bennett has arthritis, disc problems in her back, fibromyalgia and many other painful ailments from head to toe.

“I hurt 24 hours a day,” Bennett said. “It never stops. I can’t remember what it feels like not to hurt.”

Bennett has tried over the counter drugs, narcotics, injections and physical therapy. They have all failed. She has contacted Sanford and Essentia health systems, along with seven pain clinics in the state in hopes of getting certified for medical marijuana. They all shamefully rejected her.

“I am very frustrated and angry ” Bennett said. “When a doctor sees that I have struggled for years, it hurts that they won’t step up to the plate and help me get certified, so I can get some relief. I look at medical marijuana as my last chance of getting some relief. I want to get back to the joy of living.”

What Bennett and others are going through is a crisis. What’s the point of having legalized medical marijuana if deserving patients can’t get it? Courts have ruled that doctors have no legal reason to be afraid of certifying patients. Doctors around here need to get educated on the potential benefits of medical marijuana. They need to start certifying their desperate patients.

Medical marijuana is much safer than opioids. It’s imperative that local doctors get on board with this viable treatment option, and provide hope for those who are suffering.