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Medical Marijuana and Teenagers

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The 19 year-old was here for a physical exam, carrying with him a large pile of papers from the Department of Motor Vehicles. He said that he needed me to certify that he is capable of driving a car…

After the door closed, he told me the full story. About six months ago, he and some of his friends traveled to San Francisco to see a doctor that will give you a prescription for medical marijuana for a 0. With this physician-signed certificate, he can visit any number of marijuana dispensaries and choose his weed. These are like penny candy stores, only each bin contains various types and strengths of marijuana — for “medical purposes” of course.

So, what qualifies a teenager to get a prescription for medical marijuana? The answer will surprise you: just about anything. He claims he has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) andRestless Leg Syndrome (RLS), but of course, his medical records do not support this. He admits that he is sort-of self-diagnosed, but pot does seem to calm him down.

Last week, after apparently having an attack of his restless leg syndrome, he and a few buddies fired up a big doobie with some of his medical pot while sitting in a parking lot. He was not the driver, but he freely shared his prescription.

An alert policeman, perhaps suspicious of this activity, came upon them. Smelling weed wafting from the smoke-filled car, he searched all of them. My patient was the only one was carrying the weed, however. He did not get a citation per se, but the office did report his marijuana use to the DMV.

I think it is unbelievable that a licensed physician would prescribe marijuana to a teenager who can not even legally drink alcohol in this state. As far as I know, this doctor did not examine him, or challenge is self-diagnoses. It only took a few minutes and a hundred bucks.

Living through the 60s, I am not opposed to responsible adults using marijuana, either for medical reasons or even safe recreational use. Like alcohol, I don’t want anyone impaired with anything driving or stoned at work. Someone with a medical marijuana prescription apparently can be buzzed at work and employers have little recourse.

As a medical person who does not drink alcohol (or use pot), I still see some benefits of medical marijuana such as certain chemotherapy patients. My friend who recently died of a brain tumor was offered marijuana (from his adult kids), but chose not to use it even during the height of his treatments; he preferred to keep his already-damaged brain clear. Another PA friend with terminal pancreatic cancer tried it and did not see any benefit.

As this teenager tried to shine me on, making his case why he needed medical marijuana to control the symptoms of his self-diagnosed ADHD and RLS, I just rolled my eyes at him (teenagers understand this gesture).

“Come on, Dude…I wasn’t born yesterday. You think you are going convince me? Was your leg “restless” when you fired up that joint? Were your friends’ legs twitching, too? Did you diagnose them as needing medical marijuana?”

I agreed to write a letter to the DMV stating that he did not have any current or past medical conditions that would impair his ability to drive, but I also included a statement that stated he did not have ADHD or RLS, or any other medical condition that would justify the use of medical marijuana. I informed him that my letter would not likely help his case and he should consult an attorney. I charged him for the visit and my time. As of closing time last night, he did not pick up his letter.

I am going to be upset if I am required to appear in court to testify in this matter. If I am called, I will most definitely demand an expert witness fee and it won’t be cheap. If I am inconvenienced and have to appear, I would not be surprised to see this teenager, wearing his court necktie, sitting at the plaintiff’s table with his attorney, with a very twitchy leg.

I don’t plan on abandoning the marijuana-using teenager as a patient, but I suspect he will seek medical care elsewhere. Like his parents, I was bit shocked by his actions and behaviors, but if he uses this legal mess as a learning situation then perhaps it was worth it. Being a slick, manipulative, and obviously-intelligent teenager does not imply you have the wisdom to make good choices. Wisdom comes with life experiences, and a 19 year old isn’t finished growing. He is still a work in progress.

I have no idea what his consequences may be. Knowing the legal system, he may get out it without any consequences (other than the experience). He may lose his driver’s license, but I doubt it. Remember, he was not the driver of the vehicle and no one was driving when they were caught. Maybe the policeman was just sending him a message.

My next patient was a mature young man, exactly the same age. He was leaving the next day for his two-year Mormon mission in Bolivia and had a terrible sinus infection. He has completed a semester or two at college and will now be making a life-changing journey of self-discovery and a test of his faith.

Another teenager told me of his plans to join the military and become a pilot. I could see from the anxiety in his mother’s proud eyes that she was not totally on-board. She has spent the last 18 years protecting him, and now her job was nearing completion. She has raised a man; a man who is willing to serve his country and put his life on the line.

Not all teenagers make bad decisions in their lives. Some seem to require repeated life experiences just to point them down the right path. If I could project five years in the future, which of these three teenagers will most likely be successful, I would like to believe that all of them will be. Achieving adulthood is a journey. Some kids chose different paths and some have paths carefully chosen for them. In the end, if they achieve adulthood armed with learned wisdom and integrity, the journey may be worth some early mistakes; a few bumps in the road.

Little boys are given life, but it is life that makes them into men.

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