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Legal immunity for doctors prescribing medical Cannabis is limited

Medical cannabis


Legal immunity for doctors prescribing medical Cannabis is limited by Arizona Supreme Court ruling and CARER act is introduced

The introduction of state level legislation allowing the use of medical Cannabis and Cannabis derivatives for the relief of debilitating medical conditions is fraught with contradictions and loopholes.  Uncertainty abounds because of differing regulations promulgated by the various states that have made Cannabis available to patients so far.

Arizona Supreme Court targets the loopholes and plugs them with latest ruling

Part of the inherent problem with new legislation like Arizona’s medical Cannabis laws is that the language is often untried, and miscreants will try to use this lack of clarity to escape the consequences of ill-advised actions.  Dr Robert Gear would appear to be one of these individuals, as reported by the Arizona Capitol Times.  Dr Gear made a false declaration on the prescribed state certification form, declaring that he had received and perused a full year’s worth of medical records in support of a patient’s application for certification as being in need of medical Cannabis, when he had in fact not received the records at all, and had only conducted a physical examination of the patient, who later turned out to be a police informant.

Charges of fraud and forgery against Dr Gear were initially dismissed by a lower court on grounds of his being immune from prosecution under the state’s medical Cannabis legislation, but this verdict was overturned by the state’s Supreme Court which ruled that such immunity only pertained to the certification of qualifying patients and the recommendation of medical Cannabis for the treatment debilitating conditions – and not any other wrongdoing such as the falsification of documents.

The federal position on the prescription of medical Cannabis

At the federal level, Cannabis remains an illegal schedule 1 substance, which classifies it along with heroin and cocaine – and makes it illegal for any doctor to prescribe for any purpose.

As a compassionate interim measure, the federal government has undertaken to turn a blind eye to the enforcement of federal prohibition in states where local laws have been changed, allowing Cannabis, Cannabis oil and other Cannabis containing products to be available for either recreational or specific medical purposes for patients who are medically certified to be suffering from a range of debilitating medical conditions.

Doctors and their immunity from prosecution

A uniquely confusing situation has occurred because of the nod given by federal government to the introduction of legalized Cannabis in states where legislatures have decided on taking this option. Doctors are not allowed to prescribe or dispense Cannabis plant material or cannabinoids, they may only recommend the substances to patients whom they feel have a legitimate need for alternative treatment of their ailments.

Doctors are specifically allowed to discuss the possibility of medical Cannabis treatment with their patients, and if they find that in their opinion a patient would be helped by this treatment, then they are at liberty to provide the patient with a recommendation to that effect, and they may do this in any state in the US – whether there is local legalization or not.  The American Medical Association clearly supports this state of affairs.

Clearing the confusion – rescheduling of Cannabis is on the horizon

ABC News reported earlier this month that the Federal Government are reviewing a possible rescheduling of Cannabis to Schedule 2, which would place it in the same category as Ritalin and the opiate painkillers, and would make it legal for a doctor to actually prescribe. In the specific instance of medical Cannabis the Fed may even go so far as to drop the scheduling altogether, according to the statement reported on by ABC News.

This would be a triumph for the users of medical Cannabis and their caregivers, who are still subject to arrest, confiscation of property and gross federal harassment in the very states where Cannabis has been decriminalized – or even legalized.  Sound crazy? Read more about that in this report by the Huffington Post.

Federal Government may remove all confusion with the CARER Act

On the 10th of March the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act was introduced to Congress.  According to Law 360 this Act, if it passes as it is written, would ensure that any person acting in compliance with State laws regarding medical Cannabis would be exempt from prosecution.

The act would also reschedule Cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act to Schedule 2, except for cases of bona fide medical necessity, where it would be “unscheduled”.  Cannabidiol – or CBD, as it is more commonly known would be removed from the definition of Cannabis, and this would enable High CBD oil to become available without restriction and facilitate the controlled medical testing of this promising non-psychoactive substance.

Banking laws would also be reformed to accommodate the Cannabis business model, opening the way for expansion of businesses with access to financial services that are currently denied to them, as well as allowing the Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ caregivers to freely use medical Cannabis in the treatment of veterans in states where it is legal.

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