Pot patients get state reprieve after questions about their docs
By Kirk Mitchell
The Denver Post
Posted: 11/11/2010 01:00:00 AM MST
About 2,000 people who were recently notified that their state applications for Colorado medical marijuana cards were rejected because their doctors weren't eligible to refer them for the drug got a temporary reprieve Wednesday from the state.
Ann Hause, an attorney for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the patients can continue to get marijuana until rules governing which doctors can prescribe marijuana are formalized.
Hause, who appeared Wednesday at a meeting of the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, said hearings on the issue likely won't begin until March.
"They are in limbo. I can easily think that people would be confused," said Mark Salley, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The confusion stems from a law passed this year that prohibited doctors not in good standing from recommending patients for medical marijuana. But when the department interpreted that to include doctors with restricted as well as conditional licenses, many doctors objected.
"It improperly punishes a whole host of physicians," Kari Hershey, an attorney for the Colorado Medical Society, told the advisory committee Wednesday.
Hershey said doctors with conditional licenses are allowed to practice medicine under certain conditions.
Dr. Janet Dean said the state does not have a definition of what being a physician in good standing means. One of the doctors blackballed by the state was a neurosurgeon whose practice was limited solely because of a physical disability. There was no reason he couldn't prescribe marijuana, she said.
The state sent letters in late October to the 2,000 patients of 18 doctors initially disqualified to refer them for marijuana based on the department's original interpretation of the new law.
The patients were already legally using marijuana because of a provision that allows them to use their doctor-approved "application" to buy marijuana 35 days after it is signed. The rule was intended to prevent patients from suffering because of a months-long backlog.
The state now has 114,000 medical-marijuana patients, who must renew annually.
The legislature passed the law limiting which doctors can prescribe marijuana after complaints that some doctors were recommending marijuana to virtually any patient who wished to have it, Salley said.