Pennsylvania Temporary Rules for Doctors Released

By Aaron G. Biros
3 Comments

The regulations for the cannabis program include stipulations designed to reduce financial incentives and conflicts of interest.

Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy recently released a draft of temporary regulations for physicians, asking for feedback via a survey from the medical community. “The process for a patient to obtain medical marijuana will begin with the physician, so it’s vital to ensure that our regulatory process for those physicians is open and transparent,” says Secretary Murphy. “Our focus remains to implement a patient-focused medical marijuana program that gives help to those who need it, and these temporary regulations mark an important step forward in achieving that goal.” The temporary rules, published on April 11th, outline physician and practitioner registration, patient certifications, physician training and other key regulations.

Steve Schain, Esq. practicing at Hoban law Group

In the temporary rules lie some stipulations for doctors, which seem intended to limit corruption or financial conflicts of interest. According to Steven Schain, Esq., consumer finance litigation, banking law and cannabis law expert practicing with Hoban Law Group, the market’s growth will hinge on doctor participation. “The entire program will rise and fall based on the speed in which we involve doctors,” says Schain. “If the doctors don’t certify for medical conditions and make recommendations, the market won’t go anywhere.” Pennsylvania’s program, under the current language, requires doctors to issue patient certifications, similar to what other states might call a doctor recommendation or prescription.

According to Schain, other states with similarly worded regulations experience a lack of physician participation, and tepid market growth at best. “If you look at New York, New Jersey or Maryland, they run into issues where there just is no incentive for doctors to participate,” says Schain. “If you look at the existing language of the regulations, there is no financial incentive for doctors to get involved, they can’t charge for a recommendation, which is good and bad.”

“The good part is it reinforces that doctors can’t really be a financial backer of a grow operation or a dispensary,” says Schain. Under the current language, physicians can’t solicit, accept or offer any form of compensation from any patient, prospective patient, caregiver or anyone involved in a medical cannabis business if they intend to register with the Department to issue patient certifications for cannabis. “Some doctors thought this would be a cottage industry for them, it’s not.” Doctors are also not allowed to advertise as a practice issuing patient certifications for cannabis. “Another benefit of the language in the proposed regulations is the continuing care of a physician,” says Schain. “They want the people doing the bulk of referring or recommendations to be primary care physicians. Those are the people doing most of the recommendations, as it should be.” 

Those rules contrast starkly with what many are familiar with in California’s regulations where doctors could advertise freely and charge fees without the need for ongoing care. “Looking at previous regulations in a state like California, where there were no requirements for ongoing care, we saw doctors making a business out of writing recommendations for cannabis,” says Schain. “The PA regulations are much stricter, which I think is great.”

In addition to those preventative measures, the temporary rules require physicians to actively use the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. This means doctors must consider a patient’s history of controlled substance prescriptions to see if that might impact their medical cannabis use. Doctors have to take this into account before issuing or modifying a patient certification. The rules also provide for a 4-hour training course, required for all physicians seeking to register as a practitioner who can certify patients for medical cannabis use. The Department of Health expects the program will be fully implemented by 2018.

About The Author

Aaron_headshot

Comments

  1. Lezli Engelking

    Great article Aaron! I agree with you, the PA rules have a lot of benefits to patient safety and public health that other states have not included. As to physician participation, I know first hand that PA has put an extensive amount of effort into providing adequate and regular training for physicians – as well as encouraged them to participate. They have had meetings in hospitals, during rounds, etc. to assure that physicians are comfortable with what is to come. IMHO, they have thought through this aspect of the program exceedingly well.

  2. Cátia Kossovsky, Esq.

    With respect to the section: “”The good part is it reinforces that doctors can’t really be a financial backer of a grow operation or a dispensary,” says Schain. Under the current language, physicians can’t solicit, accept or offer any form of compensation from any patient, prospective patient, caregiver or anyone involved in a medical cannabis business.” – that statement is not completely true. Under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act, doctors are permitted to
    invest in medical marijuana organizations, If they choose to do so, however, then they cannot become certified by the Department of Health in order to write recommendations for patients.

    1. Aaron Biros Post author

      Catia, thank you for the clarification. Although I think it was implied that only doctors looking to issue patient certifications for cannabis couldn’t invest in cannabis businesses, therefore completely true. However you are right in that it is an unclear statement. I edited the sentence to read: “Under the current language, physicians can’t solicit, accept or offer any form of compensation from any patient, prospective patient, caregiver or anyone involved in a medical cannabis business if they intend to register with the department to issue patient certifications for cannabis.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *