Medical marijuana: CDPHE's Dr. Chris Urbina on physician assistants, patient denials
"The issue is, if the physician said they did not see the patient, that is clearly a denial. If it is unclear whether or not they saw the patient or not, it's a rejection. We are being very careful about not trying to penalize patients in any way."
How does this interpretation not punish patients?
"I understand what your question is leading to," he responds. "I think the medical marijuana rules are written very clearly. I think you know what they are. They have to have a treatment relationship that includes a personal physical examination and they have to consult with a physician. In this case, the constitution regarding medical marijuana and the law is more specific than other debilitating conditions.... I understand where you're saying. I do."
He might. But denying patients medicine for six months when they thought they were doing the right thing shows little understanding from the CDPHE. To me, it also says that the CDPHE doesn't take marijuana as seriously as other medicine, as I doubt such a policy would be used for any other legal substance -- especially if the patient was acting in good faith when they trusted their healthcare provider. However, Urbina, an active physician himself, denied my assertion.
"All medications and medical marijuana are under tight scrutiny. As a physician, I managed lots of patients with chronic, debilitating conditions and I had to follow the law and I had to develop a very close working relationship with patients. I think the same conditions exist for medical marijuana. The rules are very similar in terms of the physician-patient relationship, so we are taking this very seriously."
One thing that the CDPHE release didn't mention was that patients have the right to appeal the denial. Appeals and requests for hearings have to be filed in writing within thirty days of the denial with the CDPHE. That said, if the board you are up against interprets the law the same way that Urbina has, it seems there's little chance of having the decision reversed right now.
As for patients just applying, Urbina has the following bit of advice:
"Going forward, as we continue to investigate these cases, we urge patients to seek confirmation from the health care providers and physicians that the provider is indeed a physician with no impediments to their ability to recommend medical marijuana. We don't want anyone else to be caught in this situation going forward.... They want to check to make sure that they are following the law."
I can understand that going forward. The department has made its stance clear. But for the 4,200 sitting in limbo now, denying them outright seems more like a political jab at medical marijuana while completely ignoring people in pain. I think Colorado voters expected more than that when we voted for Amendment 20 over a decade ago as a way to provide compassionate care.
William Breathes is the pot pen name for our medical marijuana dispensary critic. His dispensary reviews run weekly in our marijuana blog Mile Highs and Lows. Keep up with all your marijuana news, entertainment and occasional opinions like this at The Latest Word.