A new industry is taking shape in Alabama. Monday we found out which businesses won licenses for the state's medical marijuana program. Now it's time for doctors to get certified.
The four-hour certification courses are live online for physicians right now. But the response has been underwhelming so far, as doctors seem hesitant.
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"Physicians are trained to put stigmas and biases aside for the welfare of their patients. They will follow the data," explained Wilson Hunter, General Counsel for the State Board of Medical Examiners. The board is overseeing the certification process.
Hunter says some doctors maybe waiting on more peer reviewed scientific data on which patients benefit the most from cannabis. "If you see reticence, they're waiting on medical science to give guidance they can trust," remarked Hunter.
He explains any doctor can get a license to prescribe medical marijuana as long as they are in good standing with the board and have had no issues in the past with prescribing controlled substances.
"Everybody is trying to avoid a repeat of the opioid crisis," warned Hunter.
Hunter says this is a last resort option for treatment and the recommendation to use it must be in a doctor's normal scope of practice.
Medical marijuana is not typically covered by insurance.
Both UAB and St. Vincents hospitals were unavailable to discuss whether medical marijuana would be part of their treatment plans. Others though see big possibilities for patients and strong tax revenue in the new industry.
"Medical cannabis is the future; we're excited about it," said Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford.
Gadsden will have two dispensaries. Mayor Ford says it fits right in with their growing medical community which serves five counties.
"We have two hospitals, two cancer centers. This goes hand in glove with what we're trying to develop in Gadsden," explained the mayor.
It would likely be six months to a year before the products are actually on the market. One potential hold up could be if lawsuits are filed by businesses which were not awarded a license.