AMS has received numerous calls from physicians asking about the recently passed medical marijuana amendment. While AMS was and remains opposed to the amendment, AMS members should be aware of the implications and responsibilities associated with the law. There are numerous regulatory hurdles that must be completed prior to medical marijuana actually being prescribed:
- Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) must issue rules governing the Registry IDs for qualifying patients and caregivers, labeling, laboratories, and testing. Deadline is March 9, 2017, but likely to be extended by the Arkansas General Assembly. By May 8, the ADH must issue rules regarding the process for considering petitions to add qualifying medical conditions.
- The recently appointed Medical Marijuana Commission must also issue rules byMarch 9 establishing the process for awarding licenses to dispensaries and cultivation facilities. Again, the deadline is likely to be extended. Five members have been appointed to the Commission, including two physicians and a pharmacist.
- Once the rules are in place, the process will begin to issue licenses for dispensaries and cultivation. The ADH will begin accepting physician certifications that qualify patients to receive Registry IDs that enable them to obtain no more than 2 ½ ounces during a 14-day period. It is uncertain how long this process will take.
- Only physicians (MDs and DOs) with an unrestricted Arkansas license and DEA registration to prescribe controlled substances may issue certifications. The certification must identify the qualifying condition and include a statement that in the physician’s opinion (for this patient) the potential benefits of medical use of marijuana outweigh the risks to the patient (this is not the full statement).
- Qualifying medical conditions are specified in the amendment. There are 12 medical conditions specified plus any chronic or debilitating disease or condition or its treatment that produces one or more of six symptoms such as seizures, severe nausea, and peripheral neuropathy.
Considering the steps that must be completed before the first cultivation license is issued, the time for producing a final product, etc., it is likely to be quite some time before medical marijuana is available to patients.