By Jacob Browne
This past holiday season, patients across the state rushed to their mailboxes to find well wishes from friends and family, last minute gifts they ordered online and bills they’ll struggle to pay. What many didn’t expect was a letter from state health officials. No, it wasn’t a refund from the medical marijuana registry’s overstuffed stockings. Many received what amounts to yet another roadblock to patient rights.
Last year, the state legislature passed SB 109 to clarify the process of obtaining a medical marijuana card, with then-Governor Bill Ritter lauding the measure as a way to “help prevent fraud and abuse.” One of the key elements: ensuring that every patient received a physical exam before the physician signed off on the recommendation. Employees at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) had claimed that a flood of applicants was causing backlogs in the approval process, preventing them from issuing cards in the 35 days mandated by Amendment 20. As it turns out, the bill would soon become responsible for some of the longest delays in the history of the registry.
How could the CDPHE verify each physician had performed a thorough evaluation of each patient?
“Law enforcement representatives had been present in two locations where applicants were being seen by someone other than a physician,” according to a statement from CDPHE. The officers soon tipped off the department, which left 4,200 patient-applicants in limbo. Patients like Ty Link, owner of Visions of Love Baking, were left guessing why their cards weren’t issued in 35 days.
“I applied Sept. 30 and got my rejection letter on Dec. 21,” says Link. She was rejected because the application was signed by her physician . . . and a nurse practitioner.
Such issues are being felt by other medical marijuana patients who say they’re being denied access over what amounts to a clerical error. CDPHE representatives, on the other hand, have stated publically that their hands are tied by the language in the state constitution. Warren Edson, partner at the criminal defense legal firm Edson, Maytin and Matz, doesn’t understand why patients have been put in such a unique position.
“Have you ever asked your family physician, ‘Hey, do you have a restriction on your license?’” asks Edson. “They talk about that here [at the CDPHE] like it’s part of the discussion, but I’m not sure.”
Nurse practitioners in Colorado are allowed to write prescriptions, but they are no longer permitted to recommend medical marijuana. Additional considerations, such as being registered with the DEA or having an active license with no restrictions are also required.
What should patients do when seeing a doctor about MMJ?
“As dumb as it sounds,” says Edson, “ask, ‘Are you a doctor?’”
Patients can also verify a physician through the Automated Licensure Information System Online (ALISON), an online database of license information. Also make sure the paperwork is signed in front of you.
“You don’t go to the doctor and see a prescription pad pre-signed.”
While Link may have lost the money she spent on her initial physician’s visit, her rejected status means she can reapply in 30 days. Other patients, who received denials from the department, lose their $90 application fee and are banned from the registry for six months.
To Your Health
ALISON, or the Automated Licensure Information System Online, is a database in Colorado that can help you determine, among other things, if your doctor has been suspended. Here is some general advice from Colorado Springs-based The Stasiuk Firm’s website.
-Go to www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php.
-In “Search Type,” select “Individuals.”
-Click “Go to Search Form.
-When the next page loads, you can enter the doctor’s first and last name and the city where the doctor practices. If you do not know one or more of these, you can leave that field blank. Double-check the spelling of the doctor’s name.
-Click “Begin Search” to see the results.
Article From Culture Magazine and republished with special permission