NM regulators propose new medical marijuana rules

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State medical regulators are drawing criticism for proposing new rules with requirements for doctors and other health care providers who certify patients to use medical marijuana.

The Medical Board plans an Aug. 16 hearing on the new rules, which include requirements that patients be periodically re-diagnosed and that providers notify patients’ other health care providers.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican (http://bit.ly/1bZwD9E ), the board says the new rules would clear up confusion on what’s required for the certifications, comparing them with prescriptions for narcotic pain relievers.

Critics said the proposed rules go too far by creating barriers for use of medical marijuana.

“It’s not a prescription drug. It’s an herbal medication,” said Dr. Steven Jenison, who served as director of the state Health Department’s Medical Advisory Board for the marijuana program until June.

One proposed rule would require patients to be diagnosed again every four years for cancer and other conditions initially approved to qualify a patient for the program and every two years for post-traumatic stress disorder and 10 other conditions that have been added since the law passed.

Dr. Eve Ettling, an internal medicine specialist who practices in Truth or Consequences and a member of the cannabis advisory board, said forcing people to be diagnosed again doesn’t make sense because most suffer from incurable illnesses.

“That’s a huge barrier and very unfair,” Ettling said.

It’s already difficult for patients to find doctors who are willing to certify them for the program, and that many patients drive hours to see her, Ettling said.

Ettling, Jenison and the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance also take issue with a proposed rule that would require practitioners who certify patients for the program to “inform their patients’ other health care providers.”

“It’s prohibitive for the physicians who would sign it,” Ettling said. “Nobody is going to take that kind of time and can’t take that kind of time.”

Citing board policy, Medical Board Director Lynn Hart declined to comment on proposed rules still in the public hearing process.

“The Medical Board has developed these rules because marijuana is an emerging treatment modality,” Hart said. “If the Legislature believes we have overreached, then the Legislature can speak. There is nothing in the legislate history that shows the legislators intend for the Medical Practice Act not to apply to physicians certifying patients for medical marijuana.”

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