Medical marijuana: Risk management tips

Fifteen states and Washington, D.C., now have laws permitting the use of medical use of marijuana, and physicians nationwide are allowed to recommend it for eligible patients, thus leading to a lucrative niche for physicians willing to embrace the treatment believed to relieve pain, control nausea and stimulate appetite in patients with certain debilitating illnesses.

But to avoid risks related to evolving regulations and medical malpractice liability, consider the following recommendations derived from a recent panel discussion at a meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, many of which run counter to best practices surrounding more conventional therapies.


  • Know and comply with state laws on medical marijuana.
  • Ensure the physician's medical license and patient's residence are both in a ‘legal' state, with the exception of Oregon and Montana.
  • Establish a bona fide physician-patient relationship before recommending the drug.
  • Disclose risks of medical marijuana, including side effects, drug interactions and effects on preexisting conditions.
  • Follow up and monitor the patient using medical marijuana and modify treatment accordingly.
  • Provide copies of medical records that include a medical marijuana recommendation, rather than completing a separate form or certification.


  • Give specific directions regarding amounts, methods of delivery or time of use.
  • Direct patients to specific dispensaries or other sources of medical marijuana.
  • Confirm a cannabis recommendation with the patient's medical marijuana provider.

Overall, to avoid liability risks and trouble with state medical boards, "Doctors should approach medical marijuana recommendations the same as--or more conservatively than--opioid prescription," Joshua Murphy, JD, of the Mayo Clinic Legal Department in Rochester, Minn., told the panel.

To learn more:
- read the article from MedPage Today