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More PAs, APRNs Allowed to Recommend and Sign Medical Marijuana Cards

In North Dakota, PAs and advanced practice RNs can recommend and sign medical marijuana cards.

More states have taken steps to increase access to marijuana in recent years. Of note is North Dakota’s House Bill 1283, which allows physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses to discuss medical marijuana with patients, prescribe it, and sign medical marijuana cards — all as part of routine patient care. Gov. Doug Burgum signed House Bill 1283 into law on April 23.

In rural states, laws like HB1283 have a substantial impact because PAs are the primary-care source for many patients, PA Deb Houdek tells local outlet KXNet. “We’re medical providers in all areas of the state. We work in rural clinics, and we work in urban areas, so this provides us with another option that we can help those patients within the course of their disease, or at least have the discussion,” she adds.

Whether more HCPs will prescribe medical marijuana is still up in the air, however. There’s still much skepticism around its effectiveness. For example, while Houdek supports the bill, she’s unconvinced she should include the drug in treatment plans.

Research shows that medical marijuana cannot cure diseases but can alleviate pain, nausea, muscle spasms, anxiety, low appetite, sleep problems, autism, and epilepsy. Plus, it can provide relief from many side effects of chemotherapy. Moreover, when used at low doses, marijuana has few side effects, namely dry mouth and fatigue. (At higher doses, side effects include dizziness, paranoia, and psychoactive effects.)

Thirty-three states and D.C. have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana. Approximately 90% of the U.S. population supports medical marijuana, per a 2017 poll by Quinnipiac University. In 2018, almost 66% of Americans supported making the recreational use of marijuana legal, up from 50% less than ten years before.

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