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Medical marijuana policies for physicians go into effect soon

Research shows that marijuana can help patients suffering from certain ailments. As a result, many states have passed laws, making the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions allowable. This happened here in Ohio in 2016. The deadline for the state's medical board to finalize the rules for physicians is right around the corner.

If you are a physician contemplating participating in the medical marijuana program, you may be asking some questions. What will happen once those rules take effect? Will I be able to write a prescription for a patient to obtain medical marijuana?

What the physician rules may include

First, doctors cannot legally write prescriptions for medical marijuana since it violates federal law. Instead, in order to get around this issue, the new law allows you to provide patients with a recommendation for it. Before you can make such recommendations, you will need to apply for and obtain a certificate to recommend, which the State Medical Board of Ohio retains responsibility for issuing. The law required the board to come up with a plan for issuing such certificates, and those procedures for acquiring a certificate should include the following:

  • Eligibility conditions
  • Application procedures
  • Renewal procedures and timing
  • Suspension or revocation procedures and reasons
  • Procedure to lift a suspension
  • Minimal standard of care for recommendations

The board is required to complete the applicable rules, regulations and procedures by Sept. 8. Thereafter, it could take some time to smooth out any wrinkles in the procedures that may only come to light once implemented.

Legal considerations

Even though the new law provided patients with some defense for the use of medical marijuana, that defense relies on a doctor's recommendation, which you cannot legally give until you obtain a certificate to recommend. Therefore, obtaining your certificate may be high on your list of priorities as the state's deadline approaches.

First, most people believe that anything having to do with marijuana will be dealt with in the criminal courts. However, the medical marijuana program falls under the purview of an administrative law agency. Therefore, you may require the advice of an administrative law and professional licensing attorney more than a criminal attorney if you run into issues.

In fact, since this program is new and your medical license could be on the line, you may benefit from involving an attorney in your application process. This could help prevent you from encountering difficulties in the future as you work to provide your patients with an important, albeit controversial, treatment option.

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