Senate bill aims to clarify doctor-patient relationship concerning medical marijuana
The Denver Post
A medical-marijuana bill months in the making could see more changes Wednesday when state lawmakers for the first time take up the complicated task of regulating the quickly growing industry, according to the bill sponsor.
The bill focuses on more closely linking doctors and their pot-seeking patients by breaking ties between doctors and dispensaries, requiring doctors who recommend marijuana to have licenses in good standing and requiring a bona fide doctor-patient relationship.
State health department data from mid-August showed that three quarters of the recommendations for marijuana were written by 15 doctors, half of whom were banned from writing prescriptions for other drugs such as Percocet and Vicodin.
“Doctor fraud is the core of the problem,” said Sen. Chris Romer, the bill’s sponsor. “Solve that and you solve 90 percent of the Wild West problem.”
Romer, a Denver Democrat, said there are already four amendments ready for debate. They would:
• Require patients 21 years old or younger to get opinions from two doctors before receiving medical marijuana. The provision would replace a controversial requirement that young patients go before a medical review board.
• Revoke licenses from patients who run afoul of courts or are placed in substance-abuse programs, though patients could later reapply through a court-appointed physician.
• Clarify that follow-up visits are not required after a doctor has recommended medical marijuana, though patients would still have to be examined each year to renew their medical-marijuana cards.
• Allow one doctor with a long- standing relationship to diagnose a condition that allows a patient to seek medical marijuana but another doctor to actually make the pot recommendation.
Paul Bregman, a doctor with CannaMed USA in Denver, said many of the provisions seem reasonable, but he worries about an extra layer of bureaucracy that could drive up costs for some patients.
Bregman has written 1,500 medical marijuana recommendations since 2007 but just an estimated 35 to patients younger than 21, he said, questioning the need for a second opinion for younger patients.
“Yes, you should ferret out the docs who are just signing off on ridiculous things, but it shouldn’t get in the way of what patients need,” he said.
Senate Bill 109 closely mirrors suggestions from Gov. Bill Ritter and the law enforcement and medical communities, some of the only common ground in the debate over medical marijuana.
Romer said the bill will be heard at 11 a.m. Wednesday by the Health and Human Services Committee in the Capitol’s Old Supreme Court Chambers, the largest hearing room available.
Jessica Fender: 303-954-1244 or firstname.lastname@example.org