SALT LAKE CITY — Utah legislators are introducing a new bill to allow any doctor to recommend medical marijuana to patients, seeking to end what many advocates consider the biggest hurdles with the current program. If passed, the legislation would allow any doctor to prescribe the medication to up to 15 patients.
Under the current law, physicians can write recommendation letters for the use of medical marijuana without registering as a qualified medical provider. However, this provision will be discontinued at the end of 2020 — requiring doctors to register through paying a fee and undergoing an online training program by 2021.
“There are many physicians who support their patients’ use of medical cannabis, but do not want to jump through the hurdles of becoming a kind of qualified doctor under the law, which requires paying a fee and doing a few hours of education and using a new computer system just for these users,” said Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute, to the Deseret News.
If doctors forgo these requirements, patients would need to find another physician who is already a qualified provider.
Medical marijuana requirements
Under the existing new law, patients could go to their general physician — regardless if they’re a qualified provider or not — to get a recommendation letter. After that, physicians can just bill the patient’s insurance provider, according to Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City.
“The concept there is twofold. One on the patient’s side: It would allow the patient to stay closer to home, maybe with their own physician,” Vickers said. “And the physician, if they don’t feel they have the expertise to do the dosing guidelines, they can work with the pharmacist and the cannabis pharmacy.”
More than 550 providers are already qualified under the program — but not all of those physicians regularly recommend marijuana, Vickers said. This causes some disparities, according to the senator, as some patients have difficulty finding a physician to recommend the drug while other doctors are charging high prices.
“So it’s always a balancing act,” Vickers said. “We want to have access to patients, we want to try as much as possible allow them to go through the normal doctor-patient relationship to get medication.”
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