New regulations on who can prescribe medical marijuana may make Colorado the most strict medical marijuana state. Image: Flickr / Steven Snodgrass / CC-BY

In Colorado, medical marijuana has been legal for more than a decade. This year, conflicts over specifics of the law are leading to several new rules being considered. Two separate rules are being considered at various levels of Colorado government.

Doctor-patient relationship rules

In July of 2010, Colorado Governor Chris Romer signed into law legislation that requires doctors to complete a physical examination before recommending medical marijuana. The original law dictated that the doctor and patient must have a “real relationship” for the recommendation to be legitimate. The law did not define a real relationship. Now, new legislation seeks to define a real doctor-patient relationship as one that includes a “full physical examination” and “full assessment of the patient’s medical history.” Regulators did not include wording that would have required at least two visits before a recommendation could be made, thought that was considered.

Questioning doctors’ qualifications

In Colorado, registering for medical marijuana is a two-step process. A patient must visit a doctor to get a recommendation for medical marijuana. The patient then submits his or her information and recommendation to the state Department of Health. The Department of Health then considers the application and issues a registry card. For 1,300 applicants, however, their recommendations were not accepted because the doctors had “conditions” or limitations on their licenses, such as being unable to perform surgery. The new rule would allow doctors to appeal to the Board of Health to be given permission to recommend marijuana despite unrelated limitations on their licenses.

Varying regulations across the country

Colorado is one of the most stringent states when it comes to medical marijuana regulation. Some states, such as California and Washington, require only that a doctor or “qualified medical professional” offer a recommendation. Washington D.C. and New Jersey require the recommendation to come from a “primary physician” but do not define that relationship beyond “ongoing care.” If both of these regulations pass, Colorado will have the strongest regulations in the nation among states that allow medical marijuana. On the federal level, marijuana, medical or not, is still a Class 1 illegal narcotic.


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