New Mexico May be Making Changes

New Mexico may soon impose new rules on medical marijuana patients that could make it harder for them to get their medicine.

The New Mexico Medical Board is set to decide this month on regulations that would change how physicians certify patients for medical pot. The board will vote on the proposed changes at a hearing set for Aug. 16.

The new rules would force prescribing doctors to inform patients’ other caregivers about the marijuana recommendation. They would also be required to obtain information indicating whether their patients use other controlled substances.

Right now, New Mexico law mandates that a patient seeking medical marijuana obtain the recommendation of a physician or other licensed practitioner. The doctor must certify that the patient suffers from one of 17 medical conditions eligible for treatment with weed, including cancer, glaucoma and epilepsy.

Under the proposed new rules, a certifying doctor would be required to inform a patient’s other healthcare providers that the patient would receive a marijuana recommendation.

The doctor would also have to obtain information from the New Mexico Board of Pharmacy showing whether the patient has been prescribed any controlled substances. This program is already used to reduce prescription painkiller abuse.

Lynn Hart, executive director of the medical board, said that the board was considering the changes because of medical practitioners who have abused the current system.

“The physician that is signing the certificate needs to ensure that the diagnosis is appropriate,” Hart said. Doctors “need to be talking to one another.”

But the new rules could have a chilling effect, making it less likely physicians will recommend needed medication. The board’s actions may suggest to doctors that medical pot recommendations aren’t legitimate, Dr. Steve Jenison, former medical director of New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, told the Journal.

“The very fact that the medical board is doing this raises questions in clinicians’ minds,” Jenison said.

There is generally no requirement that doctors notify other healthcare providers before prescribing other types of medication. And since marijuana is technically recommended rather than prescribed, opponents of the new rules argue the controlled-substance monitoring program shouldn’t apply. According to Jenison, the medical board is overstepping its bounds under the state’s medical marijuana law by even proposing the new regulations.

New Mexico adopted medical marijuana in 2007, when Gov. Bill Richardson signed the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act into law. The state has some of the most stringent rules of any of the 20 states with medicinal pot.

Patients are limited to growing four mature plants at home, often much less than they’re allowed to use. Pot is typically costly in the state, with limited variety and low quality. There are less than 30 producers in New Mexico, and dispensaries, which must grow their own product, are limited to 150 plants. Collective grows are not allowed.

With such tight regulations already in place, the new rules under consideration could make the situation even worse for patients.

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