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Medical Marijuana: Regulations Clash

Doctors are facing a dilemma: risk breaking the law or withhold a potential treatment.

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In Boston, Grinspoon gets referrals from doctors who are too worried or unfamiliar with marijuana to propose it themselves. "I tell the patient, 'The major risk to you is a legal risk,'" Grinspoon says. "It makes me anxious; it makes the patient anxious. But I would feel remiss as a physician if I didn't do what I can to minimize suffering."

Whatever the federal government decides, Grinspoon has no intention of changing his practice. "I had a son with leukemia, and I saw with my own eyes how helpful it was in dealing with the nausea that he had with chemotherapy," he says. Grinspoon's son died, but the memory of him eating a submarine sandwich after chemotherapy -- and keeping it down -- is one his father will never forget.

"I know better than any federal official what's best for my patients and whether marijuana can help them," he says. "I'm not going to be told by those folks how to practice medicine."

Beatrice Y. Motamedi is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in health and medicine. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, Wired, Hippocrates, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications. She is currently at work on a book about health care. Motamedi is a contributing editor to WebMD.

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