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Doctor says cannabis ‘safer than just about every other medicine I prescribe.’

A London doctor is breaking new ground in authorizing pot use by patients.

Dr. Michael Hart set up his practice a year ago and has been prescribing medical marijuana for several months.

Until now, the focus on London physicians giving the green light for patients to use pot has been on Dr. John Craven, the associate director of the methadone health clinic who opened the high-profile Options Health Care Clinic on Dundas St. a month ago.

Hart believes he’s the first family physician in the London area to write authorizations for marijuana use, allowing patients to buy it online from federally licensed marijuana producers.

medical cannabis safeHart said it’s a matter of principle. He believes marijuana is a safe, effective alternative to powerful, often addictive painkillers such as OxyContin.

“Opioids kill more people per year than all illegal drugs combined. Marijuana has never killed anybody.”

Hart ( spends one day a week assessing patients for marijuana use at the Balanced Care Clinic.

He also goes online, using Skype to assess patients referred to him by the Medical Cannabis Resource Centre, a Vancouver-based agency that links patients to doctors willing to write marijuana authorizations.

Unlike the Options clinic, where producers can pick up the marijuana shipped by producers, Hart’s patients deal directly with producers, typically receiving marijuana through registered mail.

Hart said he hasn’t received any protests from family doctors that he’s interfering with their patients.

“I don’t think a lot of physicians are actually against medicinal marijuana. Most are just unsure of how to prescribe it.”

Patients seeking marijuana, whether online or in person, have to complete a comprehensive screening form and provide documentation of their medical condition, Hart said.

The head of the Canadian Medical Association is advising doctors not to authorize marijuana because it hasn’t undergone proper clinical trials. Under new federal regulations that came into effect April 1, responsibility for authorizing marijuana shifted from Health Canada officials to individual doctors.

Hart said he’s satisfied by studies that show marijuana is a safe alternative to opioid painkillers, sleeping pills and other drugs.

“I feel comfortable prescribing it because it’s safer than just about every other medicine I prescribe.”

By Hank Daniszewski