This morning, I was very excited to be a part of The Marty Riemer Show webcast. Marty and Jodi Brothers have been in the radio business for a combined 30+ years and have recently left radio (see my post "Community Economy") and begun broadcasting via the internet a few weeks ago. They were kind enough to offer congratulations to my dad on his birthday and retirement during their first webcast on April Fool's Day.
I'll say this much: as nervous as I was, I didn't throw up or pass out (although it was touch and go for a minute). Marty and Jodi are both incredibly gracious and funny, quick to riff of of one another's comments and to make me feel at home. In the end, I wound up feeling that it was over much too soon. You can click HERE for access to the webcast or the podcast. I recommend the podcast as it doesn't show how much I was shaking and wringing my hands.
While I was unsure of what the topic of discussion was going to be, I had hoped it would center around the clinic, maybe some of the cool projects I have going on to make sure we get health care to everyone, like our sliding fee scales or our cap on office visit charges, ensuring that no one ever pays more than $75 for a visit. Instead, breaking news over the weekend about a law that allows naturopathic physicians and nurse practitinoer to recommend medical marijuana use alongside medical doctors pre-empted the discussion. Very luckily, I have been doing a lot of research following the passage of this legislation because I was curious about the parameters for recommendations as well as how medical professionals of any kind could recommend an illegal drug without violating federal laws.
What my research (and emails to the state Department of Health) turned up is the following: Providers in the state of Washington can "recommend" but not prescribe medical marijuana for a very limited number of conditions. This recommendation can only come following failed utilization of most other treatments for the condition and had to be written on tamper-proof paper to prevent copying, such as a prescription pad. The law does not state whether or not a provider has to have a DEA number to recommend medical marijuana. Providers are not allowed to supply marijuana to patients. Patients are only allowed to grow (or designate a grower for) a specific number of plants. According to a federal judgement in the 9th Circuit Court, physician "recommendations" fall under First Amendment rights, so providers will not be prosecuted by the federal government. This judgement is currently under appeal. Further, federal law enforcement is currently unwilling to press charges against patients complying with state law and state law enforcement in Washington is required to uphold Washington law. The only challenge lies in patient access.
Dispensaries are illegal in the state of Washington (at the time of this writing) and the sale or purchase of marijuana is a federal crime (although patients are exempt from state prosecution for marijuana purchases), leaving patients with recommendations but no legal way of accessing marijuana. There are some clinics in Washington, such as Sentry Medical/Canna Care, THCF and others that have doctors on-site to review medical records and write recommendations as well as offering growing tips, forums (which explicitly state that no marijuana can be purchased or sold through the site), and may or may not help people connect to designated growers (depending upon the clinic). For this, they will charge $100-$200/patient fee that, in some cases, must be renewed every year.
For more information about the state laws and regulation surrounding medical marijuana in the state of Washington, go to the Department of Health's FAQ page or read the legislation here. Other helpful websites include California's own Safe Access Now