Medical marijuana: Health dept. advisory committee considers rules limiting MMJ doctors

Even as the Denver City Council's special issues committee is set to meet about new zoning rules for marijuana grows, the health department's medical marijuana advisory committee will gather to consider new rules for doctors who recommend MMJ. In the opinion of Cannabis Therapy Institute's Laura Kriho, such regs have the potential to decrease patient access to meds in severe and damaging ways.

The 1 p.m. meeting at the Department of Public Health and Environment (more specifics below), will deal with many of the issues that cropped up after nearly 2,000 medical marijuana recommendations were rejected last year.

The back story? Amendment 20, which legalized medical marijuana in Colorado, defines a physician allowed to recommend medical marijuana as "a doctor of medicine who maintains, in good standing, a license to practice medicine issued by the state of Colorado." But Senate Bill 109, which set out to clarify the relationship between doctors and MMJ patients, altered this language, declaring that only a physician with a "valid, unrestricted license to practice medicine in Colorado" would be allowed to recommend medical marijuana. Because many of the most prolific MMJ docs had conditions or restrictions on their licenses, the health department quietly tweaked its own rules and rejected all patients they'd recommended.

The uproar over this stealthy move was so loud that the health department subsequently decided to temporarily reinstate 1,300 of those patients -- the ones whose doctors had conditions on their licenses. Patients recommended by doctors with restrictions on their licenses were out of luck.

Now, a draft of new rules on view below revisits this controversy. Draft language says MMJ could only be recommended by doctors with an "ACTIVE, UNRESTRICTED AND UNCONDITIONED license to practice medicine issued by the State of Colorado, WHICH LICENSE IS IN GOOD STANDING" (the caps are in the draft). And then there's this passage:

A PHYSICIAN CERTIFYING A DEBILITATING MEDICAL CONDITION FOR PURPOSES OF THE MEDICAL MARIJUANA REGISTRY HAS RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ONGOING CARE AND TREATMENT OF THE PATIENT PROVIDED SUCH TREATMENT SHALL NOT BE LIMITED TO OR FOR THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF THE PROVISION OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA USE OR CONSULTATION SOLELY FOR THAT PURPOSE. SUCH PHYSICIAN SHALL PERFORM THE DUTIES REQUIRED FOR CERTIFICATION OF A PATIENT'S DEBILITATING MEDICAL CONDITION TO THE MEDICAL MARIJUANA REGISTRY IN A REGULAR AND PERMANENT PRACTICE LOCATION OR LICENSED HEALTH CARE FACILITY, UNLESS THAT PATIENT IS A HOSPICE PATIENT, AND SHALL COMPLY WITH GENERALLY ACCEPTED STANDARDS OF MEDICAL PRACTICE, THE PROVISIONS OF THE MEDICAL PRACTICE ACT, § 12-36-101 ET SEQ., C.R.S., AND ALL COLORADO MEDICAL BOARD RULES.

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Both of these potential changes strike Kriho as objectionable. As she notes, restrictions or conditions on a doctor's license "don't necessarily mean the physician isn't allowed to practice medicine in Colorado. Most of them can recommend even stronger, more dangerous drugs," like Oxycontin. "So why can't they write medical marijuana recommendations?"

As for the proposal regarding treatment for more than medical marijuana, "that's going to create more expense for the patient and less choice," Kriho believes -- and she fears the provision about a permanent location might disallow the sort of services offered by the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of the Rockies, which visits rural and outlying locations using a mobile clinic.

In Kriho's view, "the regulations would definitely make it more difficult to find physicians that could fulfill all your medical needs. Right now, we're lucky to have some doctors who specialize in medical marijuana -- and the state should have no authority to tell you who you can and can't see for your medical care. That's the equivalent of them telling someone with psoriasis, 'You can't see this doctor. You have to see that doctor.'"

Many mainstream doctors "are definitely scared to write recommendations," she believes. "They're already being prosecuted," she adds, pointing to cases like that of Dr. Manuel Aquino-Villaman, busted in July for writing an MMJ recommendation without performing an examination. Hence, patients may well find it difficult to track down a full-service doctor who'll consider recommending marijuana.

The advisory committee is not a rule-making body, Kriho points out. Instead, it will merely make a recommendation of its own to the state board of health. Nonetheless, she hopes interested parties will share their views during a public comment period at today's meeting.

Page down to read a Cannabis Therapy Institute release giving details about the meeting, as well as the draft rules in their entirety. In addition, check out info about another CTI event -- a public meeting and medical marijuana legal panel at Casselman's Bar tomorrow night.

 

Cannabis Therapy Institute release about advisory committee meeting:

Department of Public Health and Environment Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee Location: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Sabin Conference Room 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South Denver, CO Time: 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm More information: http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hs/medicalmarijuana/advisory.html

On the agenda for this meeting is the permanent elimination of physicians who have "conditions" on their licenses from the ability to write medical marijuana recommendations, even though they are qualified to practice medicine in Colorado in other areas. Also to be discussed is the new requirement for recommending physicians to have a relationship with their patients that is not exclusively related to medical marijuana. This new rule would require patients to make the physician that is willing to sign their recommendation their permanent primary care physician. This is another attack on patients' right to choose their physicians and will increase the cost of getting a medical marijuana recommendation dramatically.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Please attend the meeting or send comments.

Public Comments to the Advisory Committee: cdphe.MMRAdvisoryCommittee@state.co.us

Please send a copy of your comments to the Cannabis Therapy Institute: info@cannabistherapyinstitute.com

Draft rules:

Cannabis Therapy Institute release about legal panel:

The Patient & Caregiver Rights Litigation Project, the Cannabis Trade Council and the Cannabis Therapy Institute will be hosting a:

Public Meeting and Medical Marijuana Legal Panel

Wed., Jan. 12, 2011 Casselman's Bar and Venue 2620 Walnut Street, Denver, CO 80205

Free and open to the public.

Schedule:

6:00pm-6:30pm

Mingling and cash bar

6:30pm-7:30pm

Patient & Caregiver Rights Litigation Project

Discussion of current lawsuits to regain patient and caregiver rights and the positive benefits for cannabis business.

• Andrew B. Reid, Senior Counsel, Springer and Steinberg, P.C., author of Original Action Petition to Colo. Supreme Court filed 1/5/11

• Kathleen Chippi, Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project

• Kristy A. Martinez, Attorney at Law, Amicus Support for Original Action Petition

• Peter Loyd Weber, Attorney at Law, Amicus Support for Original Action Petition

• Richard M. Gee, Attorney at Law, Amicus Support for Original Action Petition

• Eric Moutz, Attorney at Law, Amicus Support for Original Action Petition

Cannabis Trade Council

Discussion of security issues regarding new DoR rules and organization of CTC Committees.

• Anthony P. Ibarra, security expert (DigaNET, Inc., Denver) Head of Cannabis Trade Council Electronic Security Committee

• Veronica Carpio, medical cannabis business owner (420 Highways) Head of Cannabis Trade Council Committee Organizing

7:45pm - 9:15pm

Medical Marijuana Legal Panel

Moderated by the Cannabis Therapy Institute

Topics for discussion will current and future lawsuits, compliance with the new DoR rules, the bleak legislative picture, and the prospects of a ballot initiative in 2012. Opportunity for Q & A from the audience.

Panelists

Dennis Blewitt (Boulder) Civil Rights Attorney and Author of Dr. Gonzo's Blog

Richard Gee (Blackhawk)

Danyel Joffe (Denver) Attorney at Law

Bill Lahey (Littleton) Lahey Law Firm, P.C.

Kristy A. Martinez (Longmont)

Eric Moutz (Boulder)

Ann Toney, Lawyer (Denver)

Peter Loyd Weber Attorney at Law (Broomfield)

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana regulations: Q&A with Matt Cook, the man behind the rules."


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