On Tuesday, the health department's medical marijuana advisory committee, considered whether or not bless language requiring docs to have a permanent location in order to recommend MMJ -- a provision that would have doomed the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of the Rockies, which sends a mobile unit to far-flung locations. But MMAPR's Vincent Palazzotto says the worst didn't happen.
"The language is gone," Palazzotto says, "and that's a really big win for us."
Palazzotto feels testimony by Dr. Margaret Gedde and several other physicians who spoke on behalf of MMAPR went a long way toward assuring the advisory committee that the organization's approach is medically sound.
"They were trying to limit situations where you're just cranking out patients who sign an evaluation form," he notes. "And they were originally concerned that we were doing telemedicine. But we actually have hands-on doctors with high standards, and we provide followup care by going out to the same communities whether it be monthly or even weekly in some areas."
Here's the draft paragraph that most concerned MMAPR:
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.
According to Palazzotto, the committee removed the portion of the paragraph essentially forbidding doctors who specialize in medical marijuana from writing recommendations, and also dropped the segment pertaining to a permanent practice location. That leaves lingo about complying with "generally accepted standards of medical practice," which Palazzotto and other doctors in attendance at the meeting wholeheartedly support.
The news wasn't as good for doctors with conditions or restrictions on their licenses. Last year, the health department nixed nearly 2,000 patient recommendations by such physicians, then temporarily reinstated about 1,300 of them following an uproar from the MMJ community.
Provisions to prevent any doctor with license conditions or restrictions from recommending medical marijuana remain in the current draft, although Palazzotto got the impression that the committee hopes new legislation will clarify the rules. "I think everyone wants to define what is a condition that would restrict somebody for medical marijuana," he says. "Would it be a neurosurgeon who can no longer operate because he has a slight shake, or a physician previously addicted to Oxycontin?"
As for MMAPR, Palazzotto points out that "we haven't won anything yet. The committee is just advising the Board of Health. They'll have the final decision."
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But for now, he's feeling much more positive than he did last month.
Look below to read the draft proposal as it existed prior to Tuesday's meeting:
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of the Rockies aims to put patients first."