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    Marijuana and optometry: Practicing post-legalization

    In honor of the unofficial stoner holiday—April 20—we wondered how the legalization of marijuana in some states has affected optometrists.

    Attitudes about marijuana use, both for medicinal and recreational purposes, have shifted rapidly over the last few years.1 Four states—Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska—and Washington, DC have legalized marijuana use. An additional 14 states have decriminalized certain amounts of possession, and nearly half of the states allow medical marijuana.1 A number of states have various forms of pro-marijuana legislation pending.

    Related: Cannabinoids: medical perils and benefits

    So, what should you understand about marijuana before legalization comes to your state?

    Medical vs. recreational uses

    Robert Prouty, OD, FAAO, of Parker, CO, who will lecture on this topic at Optometry’s Meeting 2015 in Seattle. He says it is difficult to discuss marijuana because users fall into two camps: those who use it recreationally and those who use it for its medicinal purposes.

    Dr. Prouty doesn’t give much credence to pro-marijuana groups who tout statistics that claim the drug is safer than alcohol and tobacco.

    “That’s a very low bar—let me tell you,” he says.

    But when it comes to marijuana’s medical benefits, Dr. Prouty takes a different stance.

    “I think there is huge value in understanding this substance—huge,” he says. “It’s misunderstood tremendously. It’s been maligned over the years as the blight of mankind.”

    Like any other medication, he believes it should be properly regulated, and prescriptively controlled by competent doctors who can assist patients in managing their disease.

    Next: Marijuana and glaucoma

    Colleen E. McCarthy
    Colleen McCarthy is a freelance writer based in the Cleveland area and a former editor of Optometry Times. She is a 2010 graduate of the ...

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    • StewartGooderman
      I happen to have one patient who uses cannabis to control his seizures from a bullet lodged in his brain, and it seems to be working. What concerns me, as a health care practitioner, is what the risk is to other body systems that come from the inhalation of smoke from burning cannabis leaves. We've know for decades that tobacco smoke causes lung cancer and now macular degeneration. Does cannabis smoke have the same effect? The sad part is that because cannabis has been illegal for so long, no research on the act of smoking it seems to have occurred.

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