The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration puts marijuana in the same category as heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

“We put together a list of potential scenarios where medical marijuana might be helpful for our patient population, never initially as a first-line approach, but when other things have been tried,” Mitchell said.

They came up with a limited set of diagnoses and a limited set of specialists who could be recommenders for medical marijuana. “We started with some of our neurology specialists, some of our palliative care specialists, some things that are pretty common uses in the literature to support, like chemotherapy-induced nausea, some of those diagnoses,” she said.

The policy allows the addition of diagnoses as new literature and research supports it.

To be a recommender, OU system doctors must complete two required courses — a one-hour general training about medical marijuana and its use, as well as a three-hour training that goes into the OU policy and the law.

“We’re trying to get that general level of knowledge out to all of our physicians across the practice because there will be — and there have been — individuals come in who have had a recommendation from another physician that is seeking care from us,” Mitchell said.

The policy requires a doctor who recommends medical marijuana to review potential risks with the patient. The patient must sign a form acknowledging there are certain risks and there is a lot that medical science doesn’t know yet know about the drug.

“We’ve got a few providers who are interested in being recommenders, but very few,” Mitchell said. “There was a handful of providers that really stepped up and said, ‘If this is going to happen, I feel like I need to be the one that’s advising my patients. I owe that to them because they’ve entrusted their care to me.'”