Marijuana for Medical Purposes
On November 5, 1996, the people of California passed Proposition 215. Through this Initiative Measure, Section 11362.5 was added to the Health and Safety Code, and is also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. The purposes of the Act include, in part:
"(A) To ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where the medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined that the person's health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief; and
(B) To ensure that patients and their primary caregivers who obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes upon the recommendation of a physician are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction."
Furthermore, Health and Safety Code section 11362.5(c) provides strong protection for physicians who choose to participate in the implementation of the Act. "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no physician in this state shall be punished, or denied any right or privilege, for having recommended marijuana to a patient for medical purposes."
The Medical Board of California developed this statement since marijuana is an emerging treatment modality. The Medical Board wants to assure physicians who choose to recommend marijuana for medical purposes to their patients, as part of their regular practice of medicine, that they WILL NOT be subject to investigation or disciplinary action by the Medical Board if they arrive at the decision to make this recommendation in accordance with accepted standards of medical responsibility. The mere receipt of a complaint that the physician is recommending marijuana for medical purposes will not generate an investigation absent additional information indicating that the physician is not adhering to accepted medical standards.
These accepted standards are the same as any reasonable and prudent physician would follow when recommending or approving any other medication, and include the following:
- History and an appropriate prior examination of the patient.
- Development of a treatment plan with objectives.
- Provision of appropriate consent including discussion of side effects.
- Periodic review of the treatment's efficacy.
- Consultation, as necessary.
- Proper record keeping and maintenance thereof that supports the decision to recommend the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
In other words, if physicians use the same care in recommending marijuana to patients as they would recommending or approving medications, they have nothing to fear from the Medical Board.
Here are some important points to consider when recommending marijuana for medical purposes: Continue reading