Medical Marijuana – Part I

What Medical Practices and Physicians Need to Know About Medical Marijuana – Part I

Medical practices and doctors are encountering the legalization of medical marijuana from multiple angles.  This article will exclusively discuss how physicians should treat patients who request or seek to use marijuana to manage a medical condition.

Federal law prohibits physicians from prescribing medical marijuana because it is still categorized as a schedule I, illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act.  However, physicians in many states, including Illinois, may now direct patients to the option of using medicinal marijuana to treat qualifying medical conditions, including conditions like cancer, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis.  Patients can subsequently obtain medical marijuana from a dispensary.
Physicians must be aware of the potential liability issues related to directing patients to marijuana as an option for pain management. Marijuana has been subjected to limited clinical testing, and, at this point, there are no available US guidelines for its use.  Additionally, although the Department of Justice previously stated that prosecuting state legal medical marijuana cases was not its priority, the federal government has issued guidelines to specifically prevent the trafficking and mass circulation of marijuana, especially to minors and criminal enterprises.
Given these concerns, physicians should proceed with caution.  Physicians and medical practices should adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Before providing patients the option of using medical marijuana, healthcare providers must ensure that they have a face-to–face office appointment with the patient who may be eligible to receive medical marijuana to review family history, conduct a physical exam, complete a thorough questionnaire, and review medical records.

  • Providers should discuss the pros and cons of medical marijuana use prior to making it an alternative treatment option.  Providers should follow this discussion with informed consent documents.

  • Physicians should refrain from directing patients on where to obtain medical marijuana.  Even in states with legalized medical marijuana, the federal government still views marijuana as an illegal drug.

  • Patients should receive regular medical care to treat their medical condition for which they seek medical marijuana

  • If the patient opts to use medical marijuana, he or she should have regularly scheduled appointments with a healthcare provider so the provider can monitor the patient’s symptoms.

  • Physicians should continue to follow up with the patient for re-evaluation and further direction.

  • Physicians should fully document all conversations and discussions involving medical marijuana and maintain these records in the patient’s medical files.

  • Medical practices that anticipate the issue of medical marijuana arising frequently, should consider creating a documented protocol and policy.  

Essentially, medical marijuana is a developing area of health care law that requires oversight on the part of physicians and medical practices.  Reach out to a qualified health care attorney if you have further specific questions.
For more information please contact Karuna Brunk at Malecki Brooks Law Group LLC at +1.630.948.4907.

Articles distributed by Malecki Brooks Law Group, LLC are advertisements and summaries for general information and discussion purposes only.  They are not full analyses of the matters presented, legal, or otherwise, and may not be relied upon as legal advice.




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