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Stanford Medicine

Health Policy

A look at marijuana prescriptions in Northern California

A wry article about Shasta County’s pot-prescribing doctors yesterday got me wondering about the extent of medical marijuana use across California. A poorly-targeted Google search turned up the following eHow guidance: “How to get a prescription for medical marijuana.”

The how-to goes something like this: First, find a physician who writes medical marijuana prescriptions. Second, make an appointment. Third, describe your symptoms/illness. If you don’t suffer from any of the conditions that can be legally treated with pot, tell your physician that you sometimes get painful migraines. Fourth, if your physician doesn’t write you a prescription, repeat process with different doctor.

This raises some interesting points: First, medical marijuana use is not confined to the seriously ill, or the just unwell. Second, the number of people seeking prescriptions would seem to represent a lucrative business opportunity for doctors prone to generous interpretation of symptoms. And that’s just the gist of the Redding Record Searchlight article, which points out a doctor seeing 30 patients a day at a minimum of $150 a patient can make around $1 million in a normal working year.

“It’s easy money,” said Dr. Craig Kraffert, a Redding dermatologist and real estate developer, noting that the physicians running these clinics face very small overhead costs and don’t actually have to perform procedures on patients.

Of course, medical marijuana prescribers will have to rethink their business plans if California passes Proposition 19, which would legalize pot for all state residents over the age of 21.

(For the record, a more dedicated search provided the following answer to my original question: The estimated number of California prescription holders is around 200,000.)

Via Covering Health

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