Recently, the Michigan Attorney General's office filed a formal complaint with the Licensing and Regulation Division (LARA), alleging that a physician failed to require patients to produce medical records and "failed to maintain those records," prior to and after recommending patients for medical marijuana. The first question raised is, will the Attorney General's investigation extend to all doctors, or is this only an issue because it involves medical marijuana?
Through the four-year history of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA), the physician certification process has been a hot topic, with opponents of the Act routinely criticizing this aspect of the law. To some, these doctors are helping patients find relief through medical marijuana in light of professional risk, complaints and potential criminal investigations. Opponents, however, maintain that obtaining one's medical marijuana card is too easy, citing that as of one year ago, more than 90 percent of the state's 64,000 patients were using medical marijuana to treat severe pain, muscle spasms or nausea. A year later, the state has more than 130,000 registered medical marijuana patients.
One fact often overlooked is that LARA has an entire page on its website devoted to pain management, and nearly 30 percent of Michigan's residents have sought treatment for an acute pain condition in the past year.
The current legislative process and proposed bills being discussed in Michigan's House and Senate are opening a potentially dangerous debate, not trusting physicians to make the right decision and injecting politics into our right to privacy in healthcare. No other prescription or diagnosis is as scrutinized as a medical marijuana recommendation, despite doctors being tasked with control, regulation and administering thousands of other substances throughout their careers.
If Michigan policymakers truly want to protect the medical marijuana community and ensure safe access to medicine, they need to focus on amending the Public Health Code, not the MMMA or attacking those recommending the medicine. Doing so would first allow and recognize the use of medical marijuana and protect recommending physicians, preventing physicians from shying away from medical marijuana for fear of prosecution.
The issue of medical marijuana is a public health issue, not a public safety issue. In order for the MMMA to truly work as intended, and to give the voters of Michigan what they approved, the state needs to trust and rely on board-certified physicians, not politicians, to make proper decisions about the use and recommendation of medical marijuana.