Access to medical marijuana may tighten as a result of a new standard doctors are expected to follow if they prescribe pot.

Rules tighten for doctors who prescribe medical marijuana

New standard sets minimum age of 25, continuing care requirement to curb speedy weed docs, avoid 'free for all'

Doctors who prescribe medical marijuana to their patients are being directed by their regulatory body to follow a new professional standard that may reduce legal access to the drug.

The standard approved May 1st by the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons sets out detailed requirements doctors should follow if they authorize a patient to receive pot from a federally licensed commercial producer.

Except in rare cases, it says, patients under age 25 shouldn’t get pot at all, nor should those with psychosis or substance abuse disorders, cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses, or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

And medical marijuana should only be prescribed with the consent of a doctor who has an ongoing “treating relationship” with the patient.

Doctors of B.C. president Dr. Bill Cavers said he hopes that condition weeds out speedy pot authorizations from physicians who specialize in them, sometimes online via Skype.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for a person to walk into a clinic for the first time ever and then walk out with a doctor’s signature with no follow-up or ongoing therapeutic relationship,” he said. “Any physician providing a signature or access to marijuana for medical usage should know their patients.”

Cavers acknowledged approval will be “more difficult” for would-be medical pot users who don’t have a family doctor, but he said some walk-in clinics do offer ongoing care for patients.

He said he supports the new standard.

“There need to be guidelines otherwise it’s a free-for-all with a substance that we know has had some deleterious effects in some people.”

Cavers said the federal government has put added responsibility on doctors by requiring an authorization that amounts to a prescription for pot instead of the old system of merely confirming a patient had an eligible condition.

He said most B.C. doctors don’t want to prescribe pot without much more evidence of its benefits and how it can be safely and effectively used – as with any other pharmaceutical.

“It is the responsibility of Health Canada, I think, to come in and actually clarify this,” Cavers said. “Physicians are crying out  for more investigation to find out whether marijuana is an effective substance and, if so, for what conditions, at what dosage and for what duration. We need all those answers to do a good job for our patients.”

Pot-prescribing doctors who violate the new rules could be investigated by the college if a complaint is lodged and potentially face discipline.

Doctors are supposed to document that conventional medicine hasn’t worked, that they discussed the risks of pot with a patient and assessed them for potential addiction.

A doctor who can’t demonstrate they complied with the professional standard might also be denied insurance if a patient they prescribe pot gets ill and sues.

It’s unclear what the changes may mean for the rapidly sprouting pot dispensaries that have varying rules on who they will sell cannabis.

“Some dispensaries will sell to anybody who walks in with no paperwork at all,” said pro-cannabis crusader Dana Larsen.

Others – including the one he operates – are stricter and require some form of physician approval, he said.

Municipal regulations planned by Vancouver and potentially other cities may tighten those practices, he said.

Larsen said the college’s standard may spur willing doctors to refuse to issue a formal authorization for cannabis from a licensed producer – which copies the paperwork to Health Canada – but instead provide a note to take to a dispensary.

“When a doctor signs our paperwork nobody sees that but us and the doctor and the patient,” Larsen said.

“If anything this could push some doctors to be more likely to prescribe for dispensaries and less likely to prescribe for licensed producers.”

The college’s new standard also bars doctors from charging for patients for a cannabis authorization, or for any other associated services.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Mercedes SUV is covered at a gas station in the Clayton area following a deadly shooting there on Sept. 28, 2019. (File photo)
Thomas Dawson Peacock
Surrey man, 32, charged with sexual interference

Incidents alleged to have happened in Surrey and Abbotsford

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region over the last week.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
CHARTS: Weekly COVID-19 case double in Fraser North health area, up 50% in Vancouver

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region.

BC Hockey League commissioner Chris Hebb says the league is still on track to begin regular-season play in early December. (BCHL photo)
BCHL still on track to begin regular season in December

Commish hopeful that league can “slide right into the regular season” after successful preseason

(Delta Police Department photo)
No offence in second incident involving a teen girl being approached in Tsawwassen: police

Police still investigating incident on Oct. 15 where teen girl was approached by older man in a burgundy car

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

The Excelsior 4 are set to make their second court appearance in Abbotsford on Monday (Nov. 2). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
‘Excelsior 4’: Animal activists set to enter not guilty plea in Abbotsford hog farm case

Animal rights activists expected to plead not guilty to charges, protest for Vancouver scheduled

Dennis Cholowski shows off a Jordan 2 Retro Just Don Blue sneaker, the type of shoe only a true sneakerhead would appreciate. (Facebook photo)
VIDEO: Chilliwack Chiefs alum Dennis Cholowski shows off ‘sneakerhead’ collection

The Detroit Red Wing has been spending his NHL paycheques building up an impressive closet of shoes

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Most Read