In 2016, Pennsylvania passed Act 16, which legalized the use of medical marijuana in the state. Under Act 16, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has the authority to issue licenses to those that grow medical marijuana and operators of medical marijuana dispensaries.
Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program
To participate in Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program, patients must be certified by a DOH approved physician. Physicians cannot prescribe medical marijuana. They can only issue certifications to patients who then enter the Medical Marijuana Program. If a patient has one of the 17 approved medical conditions, they may be eligible for certification.
Over 150 physicians in the Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, and Delaware Counties are registered on the approved physician list. All DOH approved physicians must complete a four-hour training course and register with the DOH. Approved physicians are placed on a physician medical marijuana registry that can be accessed by patients through the DOH website.
Prior to issuing a certification for medical marijuana to a patient, approved physicians are required to consult with the patient, review the Prescription Drug monitoring program, and examine the patient’s controlled substance history. The certification must include the recommended dosage, duration, and intended purpose of the cannabis. Approved physicians must provide continuing care after the issuance of the certification for the qualifying medical condition. The Act also has strict reporting requirements including mandatory notification to the DOH if the patient no longer requires the cannabis, no longer suffers from the qualifying condition, or passes away.
Problems for Approved Physicians
Approved physicians have reported several challenges in complying with Act 16 requirements, including:
- Navigating the conflict that exists between federal and state marijuana laws
- Receiving limited education for the efficacy and appropriate marijuana dosage guide to assist with recommendations to patients
- Addressing the large rising number of patients who are seeking certification for medical marijuana
- Understanding the strict regulations relating to the ability of a physician to advertise that they are approved to certify patients for medical marijuana
One of the most difficult challenges under Act 16 for approved physicians is the rapidly increasing demand for certification from patients. This can place a huge time demand on physicians who must continue to provide ongoing care to their patients. Physicians additionally fear potential penalties for noncompliance with the rules and regulations of Act 16. Medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law. This may potentially place physicians at risk for prosecution should the Department of Justice rescind its current policy of non-prosecution for conduct permitted by state medical marijuana laws.
Philadelphia Physician Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Assist Physicians in Act 16 Compliance Matters
If you are a physician and have questions about Act 16 compliance or minimizing the risk of federal enforcement issues, the Philadelphia physician lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. are here to help. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to proudly serve physicians and other medical professionals throughout the surrounding areas. To schedule your free confidential consultation today, call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online.