Medical marijuana programs in many states have become little more than late-night comic fodder, as California Dr. Feelgoods prescribe medical-grade pot for any illness “for which marijuana provides relief” – including asthma. In Colorado, just 12 physicians account for half of that state’s 108,000 patient certifications.
So it is imperative New Mexico move to preserve the intent of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, which the 2007 Legislature designed to provide relief for the state’s most vulnerable patients by allowing those with one of 17 specific diagnosed medical conditions to purchase and/or grow cannabis.
Two proposed rules to be considered by the state Medical Board on Aug. 16 would give the New Mexico program credibility by helping ensure only patients who truly need to smoke medical pot can do so legally.
The first would require a physician to notify a patient’s other health care providers before certifying eligibility for medical marijuana. As the country moves toward coordinated care to control costs and improve health outcomes it only makes sense for medical professionals to let each other know what they are prescribing to the same patient.
The second would require a physician to get a New Mexico Board of Pharmacy report detailing any controlled drugs prescribed to a patient before adding medical marijuana to their medicine cabinet. Medical pot is a Schedule II drug under state law, the most stringent classification for legal drugs that “have a high potential for abuse” that includes morphine, opium and codeine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. And New Mexico has the nation’s highest drug overdose death rate. While marijuana use isn’t fatal in and of itself, in tandem with other narcotics it likely would factor into fatalities.
And, marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
Critics like Dr. Steve Jenison, former medical director of the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, say the proposed rules will have a “chilling effect” on physicians. Considering the way the California and Colorado programs have been hijacked, as well as New Mexico’s horrific problem with fatal overdoses, New Mexicans and their responsible and ethical physicians should welcome any cool down in lax practices that could facilitate drug abuse and move the program away from its intended purpose.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.