AP Colorado’s dispute over which doctors can recommend medical marijuana could become more confusing this week when state health authorities consider tighter limits at the same time lawmakers debate conflicting rules.
One question is whether doctors with conditions on their medical licenses – such as a surgeon being banned from surgery after developing arthritis – should be able to recommend pot.
The Colorado Board of Health also plans to flesh out how well doctors have to know patients before recommending marijuana. The proposed regulations address what lawmakers called for last year by requiring a “bona fide” relationship between doctors and patients – designed to discourage so-called “marijuana mills” in which doctors recommend pot to people after only brief visits.
Some 1,300 people who applied for medical marijuana cards were rejected late last year by state health officials because their recommendations came from doctors with license conditions. The doctors – and the Colorado Medical Society – argued that barring all doctors with conditions from recommending pot is too broad because many doctors’ conditions don’t affect their ability to prescribe or recommend drugs. The rules would require physicians to have “unrestricted, unconditioned” licenses before they can recommend pot.
[Russ adds: Certainly a doctor's brain doesn't degrade just because his arthritis may have degraded his surgical skills. His or her ability to diagnose and help patients isn't affected. To ban such doctors from medical marijuana specialization is to rob doctors of an opportunity to continue practice even after age or accident has taken from them their ability to operate.
As for "bona fide" relationships, this would be fine if most doctors in "bona fide" relationships could recommend medical cannabis. It's not as if patients want to go visit yet another doctor and spend the cost of yet another appointment in order to get permission to use the safest drug ever listed in the US Pharmacopeia. The problem is that many patients' primary care physician works for Veterans Administration or a hospital that accepts federal funding or a clinic with insurance that forbids them from recommending cannabis. Many of these primary care "bona fide" physicians would love to write a cannabis recommendation for their patients, but they would lose their jobs.
So we have specialty doctors at medical marijuana clinics who will recommend for them, only after reviewing the extensive medical records provided by the patients' "bona fide" doctors and providing an examination. Any patient who has received a recommendation from a clinic means they've had TWO doctors verify their condition.]