Michigan’s months-long backlog of unprocessed medical marijuana applications is creating problems for patients and law enforcement.
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So is the confusion over what a “bona fide physician-patient relationship” entails.
Lawmakers hope to clear up these issues with a package of bills to amend the medical marijuana act of 2008.
Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, or LARA, administers the patient registration identification cards that are required to obtain and use medical marijuana.
The department is working on processing original applications received at the end of August, and is processing renewal applications for cards that were set to expire last fall, said Kenneth Stecker of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.
“They are very overwhelmed with this,” Stecker said. “They have a lot going on. They do a good job.”
If an applicant doesn’t receive a denial or a card within 20 days, the application becomes a valid registration card. But the applications don’t have registration numbers on them, so police officers can’t verify whether it’s valid.
This month the department began sending notice of approval letters to qualifying patients and designated caregivers. Those letters have card numbers, which can be verified by police, Stecker said.
The issue “screams for help,” said Rep. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, who testified before a packed committee hearing today. Public testimony will be heard next month.
He supports legislation that would extend the cards’ expiration from one to two years. The bill also calls for the state to contract with a private company to help process and issue registration cards in order to expedite the process.
“The two years is not unusual; we see that with the concealed weapons permit, for example,” Horn said. “This request we think will reduce the burden on LARA and reduce the burden on the patient to have to renew that ID every year.”
HB 4834 also would require a photograph for medical marijuana patient registration cards.
HB 4851 attempts to clarify the definition of “bona fide physician-patient relationship.”
The issue has come up as some authorities contend it’s too easy for non-qualified patients to get medical marijuana cards.
It also was the crux of a case of two Madison Heights men who were charged with having marijuana plants. The men did not have an official registration card, but did have letters from a doctor. But the appeals court found that the men could not prove a good-faith relationship with the doctor.
In order to prove a bona-fide relationship, the legislation proposes that a doctor must review relevant medical records, complete an assessment of the patient’s current condition with an in-person exam, create and maintain records and have reasonable expectation of providing follow-up care.
The rules are similar to a bill proposed in the Senate last year. That bill was criticized by a doctor who said it would hurt patients because only a few doctors will prescribe marijuana. Many physicians are afraid to do so, he said.
But the bills under consideration don’t deal with possibly the most controversial fallout from the voter-approved initiative: medical marijuana dispensaries, which have been a contentious issue in many local communities.
Dispensaries were deemed illegal by a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals in August.
A Mount Pleasant dispensary filed an appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court.
Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing, urged his colleagues to address the dispensary question.
“As legislators we need to deal with it in its entirety. We need to deal with it all at once,” he said. “I think we should produce some legislation relating to dispensaries as soon as possible.”
– Article originally from M Live.