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Pennsylvania Department of Health Releases Draft Rules for Doctors Prescribing Medical Marijuana

Healthcare Alert | April 21, 2017
By: Ryan Udell and Michael Psathas

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (Department of Health) recently issued draft regulations (Draft Regulations) which govern the conduct of physicians when prescribing medical marijuana to patients in the commonwealth. These draft rules are part of a larger framework established last year to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. Once fully implemented under Pennsylvania state law, the use of medical marijuana will be permitted to treat 17 serious health conditions (including cancer, autism, epilepsy and PTSD) and can be dispensed in various forms. As further described below, the Draft Regulations provide specific rules for physicians to comply with in order to dispense medical marijuana to patients in Pennsylvania. 

Application Process

Under the Draft Regulations, physicians that wish to dispense medical marijuana will be required to register as a practitioner (Practitioner) with the Department of Health. In order to qualify as a Practitioner, physicians will need an active medical license from the state and be qualified (as determined by the Department of Health) to treat patients with one or more serious medical conditions. The application will require, among other things, disclosure of the physician’s full name, business address, professional email, education background and a description of any specialty, training and experience. 

Registry

In addition to the application process, the Department of Health will facilitate and maintain a public registry on its website of Practitioners who have been approved to issue patient certifications. A physician will be listed on the registry only after the physician has successfully completed a training course as further described in the Draft Regulations. The registry will essentially provide a centralized database for patients to obtain Practitioner information. The Draft Regulations also provide that a Practitioner may be removed from the registry if such Practitioner has been subject to professional disciplinary action.      

Patient Certification

Patient certifications are issued by Practitioners to certify that a patient has one or more serious medical conditions. Under the Draft Regulations, a Practitioner may issue a certification if (i) the Practitioner has determined that the patient has a serious medical condition and has included such condition in the patient’s medical record and (ii) the Practitioner has determined that the patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative medical benefit from the use of medical marijuana. In addition, each Practitioner will need to review the patient’s prior medical history and controlled substance history, if available, before providing a patient certification. The Draft Regulations also require that certain information must be provided in each patient certification such as the patient’s specific serious medical condition, the form of medical marijuana and any other information the Practitioner believes may be relevant to the patient’s use of medical marijuana. Finally, there are also various rules for modifying a patient certification and revoking such certification in the Draft Regulations.  

 Practitioner Prohibitions

The Draft Regulations explicitly prohibit certain conduct by Practitioners. For instance, a Practitioner may not accept, solicit or offer any form of remuneration from or to any patient, individual or medical marijuana organization other than accepting a fee for service with respect to a patient consultation to determine whether the prospective patient should be issued a patient certification to use medical marijuana. Importantly, a Practitioner may not hold a direct or economic interest in a medical marijuana organization. In addition, a Practitioner may not advertise that the physician can certify a patient to receive medical marijuana nor can the Practitioner issue a patient certification for the Practitioner’s own use or for the use of a family member.

Conclusion

While the medical marijuana program was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf on April 17, 2016, it is expected to be fully implemented in 2018. The above analysis is a summary of the recently released Draft Regulations governing the conduct of physicians. As previously discussed, this is just a component of the regulatory framework for the medical marijuana industry in Pennsylvania. Physicians and other stakeholders that are involved in the medical marijuana industry should consult with their legal advisors to carefully review all of the rules and regulations to ensure compliance with the Department of Health’s guidelines.

If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact Ryan Udell (udellr@whiteandwilliams.com; 215.864.7152), Michael Psathas (psathasm@whiteandwilliams.com; 212.868.4833) or another member of our Healthcare or Corporate and Securities Groups.

This correspondence should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult a lawyer concerning your own situation and legal questions.
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