How Maryland's Medical Marijuana Law Affects Health Care Providers

Under a new Maryland law, physicians may be approved by the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission to certify a patient’s use of medical marijuana for one or more qualifying medical conditions.  Marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinol continue to be Schedule I controlled dangerous substances, so it remains unclear how many Maryland physicians will participate in the State’s new medical marijuana program.

Physicians who want to certify patients to use medical marijuana must first submit a written application to the Commission that, in part, identifies: (1) the medical conditions for which a patient may be certified, (2) the physician’s plan to screen for dependence on the drug, (3) a plan for ongoing assessment and follow up, and (4) a plan for collecting and analyzing data.  Once the Commission approves the physician’s written application, the physician may then certify patients to use the drug.

Prior to certifying a patient, the physician must perform a full assessment of the patient’s medical history and current medical condition to ensure that the patient has one or more chronic or debilitating diseases or medical conditions.  To qualify for the program, a patient must be diagnosed with cachexia, anorexia, wasting syndrome, severe pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe or persistent muscle spasm.  The Commission may approve the drug for other severe medical conditions, if traditional treatments have proven ineffective, and marijuana may reasonably relieve the patient’s symptoms.  Each patient certification must be submitted by the physician to the Commission.

A participating physician will also need to submit an annual report to the Commission that includes the number of patients served, each patient’s county of residence, the medical condition(s) for which medical marijuana was recommended, and a summary of clinical outcomes, adverse events, and suspected diversions.

A physician who acts in compliance with the new law may not be subject to arrest or prosecution by the State of Maryland, may not face any civil or administrative penalty including disciplinary action by the medical licensing board, or be denied any right or privilege afforded by the State.  The State law, however, does not protect a physician against action taken by the federal government, including the Drug Enforcement Agency that licenses physicians to prescribe Schedule II – V controlled substances.

Regulations implementing the State’s new medical marijuana law must be adopted no later than September 15, 2014, so the details about the program and its effects on medical practice in Maryland will become clearer over time.

To learn more about the program or how to become a certifying physician, contact Greg Garrett via email or 410.752.9767.

This alert has been prepared by Tydings for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.