Rhode Island Medical Society Joins ACLU Lawsuit over Restrictive Medical Marijuana Policy

Adding more weight to the seriousness of the issues involved in the case, the Rhode Island Medical Society (RIMS) has joined as a plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit filed earlier this week, challenging the state Department of Health (DOH) for making it more difficult for patients with debilitating medical conditions to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program.

The suit challenges a new DOH policy that no longer allows registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to certify that a patient has a debilitating medical condition that qualifies him or her for participation in the medical marijuana program. Under the new policy, only certifications signed by physicians are accepted. The new policy was implemented without any public notice or input, and was applied to deny applications that had been pending for months. It reversed a contrary policy that had been in effect for over six years.

The original plaintiffs in the suit, filed by RI ACLU volunteer attorney John Dineen, were the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, the Rhode Island Academy of Physician Assistants, and Peter Nunes, Sr., an individual whose application to participate in the medical marijuana program was denied by the DOH under the new policy. The ACLU and the plaintiffs argue that the new restriction on the number of medical professionals who can make certifications has serious consequences for some patients. The lawsuit raises both procedural and substantive issues with the policy.

Steven R. DeToy, Director of Public and Government Affairs for RIMS, said today: “Patients know that medical offices are busy places, and the last thing we want to do is impede the workflow in those offices, which is the only practical effect the Health Department’s rule would have. Patients’ time with their doctor is precious, as we all know. Doctors need to be able to delegate to other members of the health care team so as to have more time with patients. Physician Assistants and nurse practitioners are critical members of the health care delivery team in many doctors’ offices. This arbitrary change by the Department of Health cannot go unchallenged.”

John W. Dineen: 223-2397
Steven DeToy: 528-3283
Steven Brown: 831-7171

– Press release from The American Civil Liberties Union.