News Column

Medical Marijuana Rule Changes Proposed

August 6, 2013

The New Mexico Medical Board will consider new rules this month for certifying patients for the medical marijuana program.

A board spokeswoman said the proposed rules would ensure clinicians observe standard medical practices, such having as an ongoing relationship with a patient, complete with follow-up visits.

A critic, however, said the rules will discourage doctors from participating in the program.

Under the state's medical marijuana law, a physician or another licensed practitioner is required to sign a document certifying that a patient has one of 17 medical conditions -- such as cancer, glaucoma or post-traumatic stress disorder -- that qualify a patient to legally buy or grow marijuana.

Lynn Hart, executive director of the New Mexico Medical Board, said the changes were prompted in part by cases that have come up alleging wrongdoing by practitioners who have certified their patients.

One proposed rule would require a doctor to inform the patient's other health care providers before signing the patient's certificate for the medical pot program.

Another proposal would require clinicians considering whether to sign a certification to obtain a report from the New Mexico Board of Pharmacy showing any controlled drugs prescribed to the patient. The state created the monitoring program to limit the abuse of prescription painkillers.

The Medical Board will take up the proposed rule changes at a hearing scheduled for Aug. 16.

Dr. Steve Jenison, former medical director of the state's Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, said those rules will have a "chilling effect" on physicians who certify patients for the program.

"The very fact that the medical board is doing this raises questions in clinicians' minds," Jenison said.

Physicians typically are not required to notify other physicians before recommending treatments, he said.

The requirement that a physician obtain a report from the prescription monitoring program is unreasonable because marijuana is not a prescription drug like other drugs monitored by the state Board of Pharmacy.

In proposing the rules, the medical board also is exceeding its authority as defined by the state's medical marijuana law, Jenison said.

Hart said the board wants to ensure that physicians follow best practices, such as consulting with other physicians who provided a diagnosis for a medical condition.

"The physician that is signing the certificate needs to ensure that the diagnosis is appropriate," Hart said. Practitioners "need to be talking to one another," she said.

Hart also said the rule requiring physicians to obtain a report from the prescription monitoring program is a step practitioners should always take before they prescribe any controlled substance.

Under New Mexico law, marijuana is a Schedule II controlled substance, she said. State law also requires physicians to obtain a report from the prescription monitoring program anytime they consider prescribing a controlled substance for a patient.


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Source: Copyright Albuquerque Journal (NM) 2013

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