Medical marijuana is already a mainstream facet of healthcare delivery in many states in the US. Physicians in states where legal marijuana programs are fully established are saddled with the responsibility of giving certificates for approval to patients they deem fit for the program. Patients use medicinal marijuana to deal with different types of health conditions which include pain relief, inflammation, seizures, insomnia, and a host of other ailments.
A recent court proceeding witnessed the ruling of the Michigan appeal court to uphold a two-year suspension of a physician who gave out 22,000 medical cannabis certificates in a year. Read on as we visit the peculiarities of this case and why the appeal court has chosen to uphold the ruling to suspend the physician.
Medical marijuana in Michigan
The state of Michigan following the decision by 62.7% of its voters in November 2018 became the thirteenth state in the US to legalize medical marijuana. The medical marijuana program in the state requires all patients and primary caregivers to have a state registry ID card. Between the period of October 2014 and the same time in 2015, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs had 84,785 new and renewal medical marijuana certifications.
The requirements for a patient to qualify for a medical marijuana card in Michigan are very straightforward which is why the state is always seeing a high turnover of applications and certifications. To qualify, the applicant must be a resident of the State of Michigan. The applicant must also have a written certification from a physician licensed by the state. The physician will state the condition of the patient while explaining how marijuana will help in achieving therapeutic aims in the patient. The state also has applications classified for those 18 years and older and those below the age of 18.
A closer look into the case
It is possible for you to initially doubt the authenticity of the figures seen above but you read right, the figure is 22,000. Dr. Vernon Proctor the physician in question in his defense stated that the figure is expressed to the court for certificates was not true. Instead, he refuted the claims by stating that it was more than 1,000 during the stated period. To back up these claims, Proctor stated that they went to five clinics a day and each of those clinics had about 20 to 50 patients per day.
The arguments placed before Dr. Proctor was towards establishing the possibility of him meeting all the needed requirements for that many patients during that same period. An expert who commented on the topic during the hearing stated that it would be impossible to conduct a proper exam for 60 patients in a week. Whereas the premise of conducting the accurate and detailed examination is the prerequisite for offering such certificates. The good doctor has an office in Baldwin which is 75 miles north of Grand Rapids.
The conclusions made by the court on Dr. Proctor’s case were strongly backed records from different sources showing a trail of his activities with certifications during that same period. One of the records used by the court was sourced from the Board of Medicine which affirmed that 21,708 certifications were approved by Dr. Proctor between June 9, 2015, and June 8, 2016. The court also received documents from the Michigan Bureau of Professional Licensing Medical Marijuana in which the former manager of its interactions with Dr. Proctor’s office. She stated that her office plays the role of making verifications on applications for medical cannabis certifications. While interacting with Dr. Proctor’s office for details of patients such as names and date of birth, she claimed he and his staff were unable to provide the information.
The initial suspension given to Proctor by the Bureau of Professional Licensing was then stipulated after the Board of Medicine Disciplinary Subcommittee had its first administrative hearing in September 2018. In upholding the decision by the Bureau, the judge stated that the morals of Dr. Proctor following stated evidence were highly questionable and it showed a lack of openness and dishonesty to the patients. This becomes more problematic considering the expected ethics of the clinical profession and the weight of responsibility that comes with the profession.
Implications of the ruling on medical marijuana certifications
It is not too farfetched to expect that such ruling will have some form of implication on certifications application and approval going forward. The atmosphere around medical marijuana is still seen by many as a license to enjoy recreational marijuana in states that have only medical use legalized. Therefore, regulatory bodies in such states take special precautions in ensuring that the right set of examinations is done to ascertain that the patients are truly in need of medical marijuana intervention. It then comes as no surprise that the bureau took a special interest in this case and ensured it was given enough publicity to curb others from doing the same.
The implication to expect in terms of certifications is that most physicians will be reluctant to process excess certifications. Likewise, more background checks will be done to ensure that patients will get the therapeutic benefit of intervening with marijuana without the development of unwanted adverse effects. How much of an effect it will have can still be debated but the effect on certification is bound to kick in soon which might not be the best of news for those that are just seeking approval.
When you consider the fact that the state of Michigan doesn’t have a legal market for recreational marijuana use, you begin to understand why much attention is being placed on applications for medical marijuana cards. There are existing fines and penalties for misdemeanors and felonies as it pertains to unlawful possession and use of the natural product outside the umbrella of medical use. This is why many might be hiding under medical marijuana to have access to such products. Seeing how this case has turned out, more physicians are bound to be more careful than before.