Pubdate: Tue, 27 May 2014
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The London Free Press
Author: Hank Daniszewski
Page: A5


A London doctor is breaking new ground in authorizing pot use by

Dr. Michael Hart set up his practice a year ago and has been
prescribing medical marijuana for several months.

Until now, the focus on London physicians giving the green light for
patients to use pot has been on Dr. John Craven, the associate
director of the methadone health clinic who opened the high-profile
Options Health Care Clinic on Dundas St. a month ago.

Hart believes he's the first family physician in the London area to
write authorizations for marijuana use, allowing patients to buy it
online from federally licensed marijuana producers.

Hart said it's a matter of principle. He believes marijuana is a safe,
effective alternative to powerful, often addictive painkillers such as

"Opioids kill more people per year than all illegal drugs combined.
Marijuana has never killed anybody."

Hart ( ) spends one day a week assessing
patients for marijuana use at the Balanced Care Clinic.

He also goes online, using Skype to assess patients referred to him by
the Medical Cannabis Resource Centre, a Vancouver-based agency that
links patients to doctors willing to write marijuana

Unlike the Options clinic, where producers can pick up the marijuana
shipped by producers, Hart's patients deal directly with producers,
typically receiving marijuana through registered mail.

Hart said he hasn't received any protests from family doctors that
he's interfering with their patients.

"I don't think a lot of physicians are actually against medicinal
marijuana. Most are just unsure of how to prescribe it."

Patients seeking marijuana, whether online or in person, have to
complete a comprehensive screening form and provide documentation of
their medical condition, Hart said.

The head of the Canadian Medical Association is advising doctors not
to authorize marijuana because it hasn't undergone proper clinical
trials. Under new federal regulations that came into effect April 1,
responsibility for authorizing marijuana shifted from Health Canada
officials to individual doctors.

Hart said he's satisfied by studies that show marijuana is a safe
alternative to opioid painkillers, sleeping pills and other drugs.

"I feel comfortable prescribing it because it's safer than just about
every other medicine I prescribe."
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