After recently approving medicinal marijuana in Massachusetts, state officials are expressing concerns regarding online resources offering to connect patients with physicians willing to certify them for approved use of the drug.
Officials with the Massachusetts Medical Society say the problem is that the sites are operated by entrepreneurs with little to no medical background, prompting questions about the overall quality of care.
Our California marijuana lawyers know that similar to here, the laws in Massachusetts require that doctors have a “bona fide physician-patient relationship” established before marijuana can be prescribed.
The president of the state’s medical society says that the fact that those operating the websites don’t have a medical degree points to an indication that these are solely money-making enterprises. He went on to say that these firms “work around the edges.”
That might not be entirely the case. The reality is that despite the many proven benefits of marijuana as medicine, there are a great number of doctors who might decline to prescribe the drug to patients – especially in a state where the law was just approved last year.
Let’s say a patient has researched extensively the benefits of marijuana over other alternative treatments for a particular condition. He or she may not be eager to test out a series of doctors and other treatment options before finally discovering one willing to prescribe marijuana to his or her patients. The solution might be to find a list of physicians in the state who are at least open to the possibility of signing off on a pot prescription.
That doesn’t mean patients aren’t vetted or that no doctor-patient relationship would exist. It’s simply a means of connecting one with the other.
Another example would be a veteran, whose primary health care provider at the Veterans Affairs Department legally can’t prescribe the drug, even if he or she wanted to do so. A referral service that could connect them directly with a doctor willing to consider a more holistic approach to their ailment could be extremely valuable.
And think about how anyone searches for services these days: Those looking for restaurants, daycare providers, a good dentist or lawyer – or yes, even a doctor – are probably going to search online. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.
What these services in Massachusetts have done is essentially found a niche offering.
Still, such operations would do well to be careful and consult with an experienced marijuana lawyer regarding the extent of their operations. This would be especially true for any online service that is based out-of-state, as sale of the drug remains illegal under federal law – and such transactions might fall under federal jurisdiction.
Massachusetts is still in the budding stages of its medical marijuana offerings, with officials currently vetting some 160 applicants who have registered to open dispensaries. The ballot initiative allows only 35 to open the first year, so those applications are in the process of being whittled down.
For now, patients are allowed to grow a small amount of the drug for their own personal use, so long as an in-state doctor has certified that he or she has a medical need to do so.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Medical marijuana Web services raising concerns, Sept. 30, 2013, By Kay Lazar, Boston Globe
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