Mass. docs want tighter controls on medical marijuana

Feb 18, 2013

In Rhode Island, medical marijuana is already legal, through people who are so-called “caregivers” selling to patients. The state has established three “compassion centers” that haven’t opened yet. In Massachusetts, regulators are still considering how to implement the law. Doctors there want tighter controls.

Massachusetts’ department of public health is accepting public comments now on how it should regulate the state’s new medical marijuana law. The Massachusetts Medical Society opposed the law originally. But now that it’s on the books, the Society wants to make sure doctors follow strong guidelines when prescribing a drug it says is not yet well understood, according to comments it submitted last week. Spokesman and family doctor James Broadhurst says doctors who opt to certify patients to use medical marijuana should not only have an established relationship with those patients.

“That there is consultation with an expert if necessary and that you have proper record keeping, and that among the other things is that the individual have adequate training in identifying substance abuse and addiction.”

Rhode Island’s Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline issued its own recommendations for doctors who plan to allow patients to use the drug, but they don’t include substance abuse and addiction training.

Broadhurst also says the regulations should narrow the list of conditions doctors can treat with medical marijuana.

“I believe that the intent of the ballot initiative was targeting people with cancer that was advanced, had caused substantial disability and dysfunction and pain and that this was the category of folks with cancer that might be appropriate for marijuana.”

Currently, both Massachusetts’ and Rhode Island’s medical marijuana laws specify cancer as a condition that qualifies for marijuana treatment. But Broadhurst says there’s a risk people with non-debilitating illnesses (like treatable, removable skin cancers) might seek—and abuse—medical marijuana.