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Benton Doctor Starts Growing Medical Marijuana Practice

BENTON, Ark. - Less than 20 doctors in the Natural State will currently sign off on medical marijuana certification forms for patients. 

That's according to the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association

The doctors have been busy. To date, the Arkansas Department of Health has approved 800 patients' applications to buy the drug. 

However, there's still a lot of confusion surrounding medical marijuana when it comes to hospitals and clinics. 

For example, the UAMS Capitol Mall Clinic recently handed out notes to its patients that read, "Please be aware, per clinical policy the Providers here at Capitol Mall Clinic will NOT BE FILLING OUT the Medical Marijuana Physician Written Certification Form for medicinal marijuana."

UAMS has since said the notes were passed out in error. According to hospital policy and the new state law, the decision to sign certification forms lies with each individual doctor. 

While many at clinics in central Arkansas are still weighing the pros and cons, one Benton doctor jumped in. 

"I told my staff, 'Hey, let's get geared up, let's go," said Dr. Roger Tilley. "We started getting phone calls almost immediately." 

Dr. Tilley has run Saline Medical Group since 1980. His young medical professional self never dreamed about prescribing cannabis. 

"No, didn't cross my mind," he said laughing. 

But now, Dr. Tilley is never turning back. 

"It's another way to treat," he said. "It was something I wanted to do so there wasn't anything that was going to scare me off it. People have a need, and it should be part of overall treatment for these diseases and syndromes." 

In the month that he's been writing the certifications, Dr. Tilley has seen more than ten patients, young and old, with qualifying conditions ranging from arthritis to intractable or incurable pain to PTSD. 

"And we've got 30 in the wings that are trying to get their information together," he said. 

Patients bring Dr. Tilley medical records from their primary care physicians and $250 in cash. If everything checks out, he gives them his signature. 

"Doesn't take long at all," he said. "I say, 'I wish you luck. I hope this works.' They usually come in for this after they've tried Hydrocodone and all these other harsh narcotics. Several said they want to get off that, and I applaud them for that."

While he said it's too early to tell what role medical marijuana will play in the state and country's opioid crisis, Dr. Tilley could say with certainty that he's made the right call and expects more doctors will follow his lead. 

"Hopefully, we've done some good," he said.  

Other clinics in central Arkansas have started talking with their existing patients about medical marijuana but are not taking new patients for it. 

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