March 14, 2011

Medical Marijuana Faces Legislative Battle In Colorado

The Colorado Board of Health plans to refine procedures on how well doctors should know patients before recommending marijuana for medical use, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

The ongoing dispute over which doctors can recommend medical marijuana will become even more confounding when state health authorities consider tighter limits at the same time lawmakers debate conflicting regulations.

One consideration relates to doctors with conditions on their medical licenses should be able to recommend pot, similar to rules against surgeons diagnosed with arthritis from performing surgery. 

Colorado lawmakers called last year for a "bona fide" relationship between doctors and patients "” designed to discourage so-called "marijuana mills" in which doctors prescribe marijuana to people after brief visits.

License conditions of some doctors resulted in the state health officials rejecting some 1,300 people last year who applied for medical marijuana cards. Doctors, along with the Colorado Medical Society, argue that rejecting all doctors with conditions from recommending marijuana is too broadly biased because many doctors' license conditions do not affect their ability to recommend prescriptions.

A bill, waiting in the Colorado House to be voted on, would allow doctors with license conditions to ask the Colorado Medical Board for permission to recommend marijuana.
Assuming their license conditions are unrelated to recommending drugs, physicians would be able to write recommendations for pot.

Diana Protopapa of the Colorado Medical Society says her group prefers that approach and that marijuana shouldn't have special limitations.

Protopapa told AP's Kristen Wyatt: "Voters in 2000 deemed that it was medicine," referring to the year Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana. "What the medical society then wants is for marijuana to be treated like other medicine."

The doctor-patient relationship regulation proposal would require physicians to complete "a full assessment of the patient's medical history ... including an appropriate personal physical condition." One regulation proposed would have required doctors to see a patient more than once before recommending medical marijuana. Another would have banned mobile pot clinics that travel around the state.

Advocates for medical marijuana use argue that multiple visits aren't required before doctors can recommend other prescriptions. "People are going to seek out marijuana either way, whether you have to see a patient once or four times. But it does affect the cost," Palazzotto said.

The Board of Health proposals would still be among the nation's strictest governing doctors and marijuana, said Tamar Todd, staff attorney for the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for lighter drug punishments.


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