Pot bill would require doctor, patient to have continual relationship

A bill to ensure physicians actually have a doctor-patient relationship with patients before authorizing the use of medical marijuana cleared a Senate committee Wednesday.

More than 100 people packed a Senate committee room to tell lawmakers why they liked or disliked the idea of regulating the growing industry, particularly in addressing how doctors should handle patients seeking the right to smoke the weed, which the law limits to people with chronic pain.

Josh Stanley, a founding member of Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation and a dispensary owner in Denver, told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee the measure would go a long way toward ensuring doctors hand out medical marijuana cards only to those patients who need it.

The way it’s working now, only a small number of physicians are authorizing the cards.

Stanley said the bulk of dispensaries around Colorado want the state to regulate the industry, but quickly added most are operating respectable establishments now.

“We look forward to helping you write regulations that help you address this process,” Stanley told the committee.

“We want you to come down to these (dispensaries) and take a look. We see a lot of assumptions going on, and assumptions can be a dangerous thing. Once you take a look at some of these facilities ... a lot more understanding takes place.”

Senate Bill 109, introduced by Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, is designed to create a “bona fide” relationship between doctors and patients before physicians can certify anyone to receive medical marijuana.

That means doctors must do more than see a patient long enough to scratch out a note saying they qualify. Under the bill, which the full Senate is to debate again Friday, doctors must provide follow-up care and treatment, and maintain a separate record-keeping system for the patients they recommend using medical marijuana.

The measure bars doctors from having an economic interest in a dispensary or being paid by them to refer patients.

Opponents to the bill said it will lead to increased fees for the patients that some can’t afford. The state already charges patients $90 a year to be on the medical marijuana registry.

“There was a theme about affordability, and I am open to a potential amendment to allowing for some kind of reimbursement,” Romer said.

A second bill dealing with how dispensaries are to operate is expected to be introduced soon.


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