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What does Minnesota's medical marijuana program mean for physicians?

Last week, our blog started discussing how Minnesota's medical marijuana program is on the brink of its official rollout, with patient enrollment opening next Monday and the first retail locations in the Twin Cities metro area opening July 1.

Specifically, we addressed some issues that employers and employees alike will want to keep in mind concerning the state's medical cannabis program. In today's post, we'll discuss how the program will apply to the state's physicians.

Will physicians have the authority to write prescriptions for medical marijuana for their patients?

It may come as a shock, but that isn't the way the program is set up. Physicians don't actually write prescriptions for medical marijuana or even weigh in on the dosage their patients should receive. Their sole function is to simply confirm that their patient is suffering from a certain medical condition on a form from the Minnesota Health Department.

Who then is prescribing, administering and monitoring medical marijuana for a patient?

Pharmacists working at the various retail facilities will be tasked with dispensing the medical marijuana to patients, answering their questions and monitoring its use.

Is this what physicians wanted?

As it turns out, the majority of physicians actually expressed support for this structure during discussions at the capitol last year. That's largely because it will insulate them from the potential legal fallout of prescribing a drug that is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the federal government. 

Can physicians still monitor their patient's use of medical marijuana?

Leafline Labs, one of the companies tasked with growing half of the state's medical marijuana supply, has indicated that it will provide all patients with a copy of their records that they can share with their treating physician if they desire.

What if a physician doesn't want to participate in the program in any capacity?

The medical marijuana law was written in such a way that physicians do have the option of opting out of providing the necessary certifications for their patients.

It will be fascinating to see how everything unfolds over the coming year and whether any physicians inadvertently encounter any disciplinary issues. Stay tuned for updates ...  

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