No, A Doctor Can’t “Prescribe” Marijuana

No, A Doctor Can’t “Prescribe” Marijuana

“What do I need to do to get medical marijuana prescribed to me?”

It’s a commonly asked question, but is incorrect even in its structure. Medical marijuana cannot be prescribed, even though you have to see a doctor and the state has a “medical” program.

In this weird world of quasi-prohibition, words matter. Because the Federal government still unconditionally prohibits marijuana in all forms, marijuana can’t be prescribed by any physician within the United States.


The Controlled Substances Act (CSA), signed into law by President Nixon in 1970, created five schedules that divided drugs into classifications. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration decide what goes where on the controlled list. Since the CSA’s inception, cannabis and its derivatives have been classed as a Schedule I substance. This means, according to the Federal government, Marijuana has a “high potential for abuse”, has “no accepted medical use”, and that cannabis “cannot be used safely, even under medical supervision”. Other drugs contained within the Schedule I designation include heroin, LSD, mescaline, MDMA, GHB, Ecstacy, psilocybin, synthetic marijuana and analogs (Spice, K2), Quaalude’s, and bath salts.

Since items found within the Schedule I designation inherently have “no medical value” according to the Government, no physicians or practitioners are permitted to prescribe cannabis to any patient.

Prescribing vs. Recommending

Just because a physician has received a state license to practice medicine doesn’t mean they automatically have the right to prescribe medications. Every licensed physician in America must apply for and receive a DEA license to prescribe Schedule II thru IV substances. After submitting the required documentation to the DEA and paying a license fee, a physician is issued a DEA number, which will follow them throughout their career. With this government issued number, physicians are able to write prescriptions for most of the pharmaceutical drugs available.

The notable exception in prescription writing is for substances classed as a Schedule I, since those substances have “no accepted medical use” and “cannot be used safely even under medical supervision”. That’s why, in every state that has a medical marijuana program, the term that must be used when a physician qualifies a patient for the state’s system is recommendation.

The United States Supreme Court upheld a doctor’s First Amendment right to discuss cannabis with patients.Therefore while physicians cannot prescribe medical marijuana, they can recommend it. Patients seeing a physician in order to qualify for their state’s respective medical marijuana program receive, upon examination, a recommendation from that doctor to use medical marijuana to treat the illnesses present.

In Conclusion

With cannabis, words do matter. Physicians cannot prescribe cannabis because it’s a Schedule I substance that, according to the DEA, has no medical value and cannot be used safely even under the supervision of a doctor. Doctors do retain a First Amendment right to recommend to their patients various treatments, such as marijuana.

Now whenever you see the phrase “prescribe marijuana”, you’ll know why that particular phrase is incorrect.




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