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As Pennsylvania considers medical cannabis, where do MDs fit in? p3

We are returning to the discussion about legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania -- and we are just in time for the state House of Representatives' public hearings on March 24. The hearings will not decide anything, but lawmakers will listen to and consider the opinions of the public and experts on both sides of the issue.

In our March 16 post, we were talking about how the current bill would affect the practice of medicine. The proposal lays out specific conditions under which a physician will be able to prescribe medical cannabis, including:

  • There must be a good faith doctor-patient relationship. The idea is that a patient cannot make an appointment with a specialist solely for the purpose of getting that prescription.
  • The cannabis must be part of an ongoing course of treatment overseen by the prescribing practitioner.
  • The practitioner must practice at an "established place of practice." The idea here is that the practitioner be an employee or a clinic or hospital, not a wandering medicine man writing prescriptions as he makes his way from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.
  • The practitioner must certify to the state that the patient is under his or her care for an eligible condition and that the practitioner has expertise in that condition.

And so on. The bill also bars practitioners from, among other things, having any financial stake in or affiliation with any growing or dispensing operation. Practitioners must be careful, too, about referrals to dispensers and advertising at a facility that grows, processes or sells cannabis. Nor would a practitioner be permitted to prescribe the drug to a family member.

Should the bill become law, medical practitioners will have a good deal of paperwork and recordkeeping to manage if they choose to prescribe the drug. A violation of the law is a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the specific violation. It isn't clear if the medical board will be able to take special action against a practitioner's license; the board may just lump medical cannabis in with other controlled substances.

Sources:

York Dispatch, "Despite research on medical marijuana, Pennsylvania physicians still wary," Mollie Durkin, March 23, 2015

The General Assembly of Pennsylvania, Senate Bill 3 (as introduced), Session of 2015

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