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Other States Also Confronting Proliferation Of Medical Marijuana Doctors

Ganjarden

Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
Allegations of profiteering pot doctors aren't unique to California.

Lawmakers in Montana are looking at changing the state's medical marijuana laws in response to "cannabis caravans" in which doctors and marijuana advocates travel around the state giving out medicinal marijuana cards.

The caravans have helped swell the number of medical marijuana cardholders in Montana in one year from about 3,000 to 15,000, according to The Associated Press.

Facing similar complaints in Colorado, the state's legislature late last month passed laws geared at reining in prolific pot physicians.

One doctor reportedly gave out 3,500 recommendations in a two-day period, said Dr. Christian Thurstone, a child psychiatrist and addiction specialist at Denver Health Medical Center. He said five doctors in Colorado account for half of all of the recommendations given to the state's medical marijuana patients.

Thurstone said he lobbied for the new restrictions after seeing a spike in the number of teens coming to his addiction practice saying they'd gotten marijuana from those legally able to possess it.

Among other requirements, the laws in Colorado now mandate that a doctor issuing medical marijuana must have an unrestricted medical board license, they can't have a financial stake in a medical marijuana dispensary and they can't hold clinics inside a marijuana dispensary.

In California, there are no such laws, although the state's medical association advises doctors to abide by similar rules.

Unlike some other states that have legalized medical cannabis, officials in California don't have any way of accurately tracking how many medical marijuana patients there are or the identities of the doctors who are giving the recommendations.

Although patients are encouraged to obtain county-issued medical marijuana user identification cards, it's not required.

Just 215 people in Shasta County have asked for one of the cards since voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996, said David Reiten, deputy director of the Shasta County Health and Human Service Agency's adult services branch.

Under the law, doctors are allowed to recommend medical marijuana to their patients, but they can't legally prescribe the drug.

Doctors may face sanctions from the Medical Board of California if it is found that a doctor went against what a "reasonable and prudent physician would follow when recommending or approving any other medication."

According to the medical board's website, that includes:

Having a patient's history and providing a good-faith examination.

Development of a treatment plan with objectives.

Provision of informed consent, including discussion of side effects.

Periodic review of the treatment's effectiveness.

Proper consultation.

Proper record keeping that supports the decision to recommend the use of medical marijuana.

"If a physician complies with these six requirements, it's highly unlikely he or she will be disciplined by our board," said Candis Cohen, a medical board spokeswoman.

Cohen said that just 11 doctors in California have been disciplined by the medical board for medical marijuana-related issues.

Even the most ardent supporters of legalized marijuana say that doctors looking to make huge profits by exploiting loopholes in medical marijuana laws hurt their own cause.

"When there are stories like this, it threatens the legitimacy of these laws," said Mike Meno, the communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates nationally for marijuana legalization.


NewsHawk: Ganjarden: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Record-Searchlight
Author: Ryan Sabalow
Contact: Record-Searchlight
Copyright: 2010 Record-Searchlight
Website: Other states also confronting proliferation of medical marijuana doctors
 
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