State legislators in Arizona are looking to crack down on pre-existing medical marijuana laws with a bold, albeit harsh, set of regulations. In order to further regulate the plant amongst its medical patients, lawmakers want to charge doctors who prescribe cannabis with a felony.
A Harsh Punishment
On Thursday, Arizona’s House Health Committee voted 6-3 for HB 2067, a bill that would take aim at doctors that fail to conduct a full medical exam before recommending cannabis to their patients. Doctors could face up to a year in prison if they neglect to do their due diligence. Additionally, a similar penalty would occur for doctors that do not review at least a year of medical records prior to allowing a patient to consume medicinal cannabis.
The proposed bill comes on the heels of comments by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, who has panned the influx of “pot docs,” or in other words, doctors that attempt to make as much money as possible by handing out medical cards to patients.
“I hear a lot from the parents who are very frustrated because their son has turned 18,” Polk told lawmakers. “They visited what we call the ‘pot docs,’ and 30 minutes later they walk out with that recommendation.”
Polk said the practice is essentially a law loophole for people to legally obtain marijuana.
“This is a de facto recreational marijuana program,” Polk says of the 2010 law.
Polk argues that the bulk of patients receiving medical marijuana are for less-than-serious conditions. She says stats show that 3 percent of patients got the certification for cancer and fewer than 2 percent got it for PTSD, while close to 85 percent of the patients receive a recommendation for chronic pain, a loosely categorized affliction. Furthermore, most of the men reporting chronic pain, she says, are between ages 18-30; an age she considers relatively young to be experiencing such physical issues.
The attorney also pointed to billboards that advertise the availability of medical marijuana cards for people without medical records, something that is not in conjuncture with the current landscape of the rules.
Final Hit: Lawmakers Want To Charge Doctors Who Prescribe Cannabis With A Felony
Following the vote from the House Health Committee, all Polk needs is the approval of the full House in order to see her bill come to fruition.
Unsurprisingly, however, not everyone is enthralled with the bill.
For example, Rep. Pamela Powers Hanley, D-Tucson panned Polk’s notion that men ages 18-30 wouldn’t be victims of chronic pain. She cited similar numbers for opioid users as further evidence.
” I don’t think you should discount the idea that because a man is young that he does not have chronic pain,” she said.
Additionally, Powers Hanley believes the attempt by Polk is simply overkill. As it stands, Arizona has regulations in place that require doctors to follow state laws and regulations. If a doctor is found to be neglecting the rules for recommending medical marijuana, medical boards can revoke their licenses. However, Polk feels as if doctors that do such should be treated as criminals, something that clearly has met the ire of fellow lawmakers,
“I see this bill as an attempt to overregulate a medicinal plant that has been used for centuries safely,” Powers Hanley said.