In what can only be considered one of those “duh?” moments, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said last week that more than 4,200 medical marijuana registry applications are on hold after law officers observed potential patients being seen by someone other than a doctor.
State law requires a legitimate doctor-patient relationship before a doctor can recommend medical marijuana. However, most Coloradans have long suspected or perhaps even personally known that the system of obtaining medical marijuana registry cards is subject to manipulation and fraud.
The health department said it will contact doctors listed in suspected forms to verify they personally conducted exams. Those who have applications denied will have to wait six months to apply for a medical marijuana registry card. Those whose cards are rejected as incomplete can reapply immediately.
Even though medical marijuana has been legal for nearly 10 years in Colorado, enforcement of state rules regarding the registry has been lax. With more than 88,000 on the state medical marijuana registry, those who would abuse the system to obtain marijuana for recreational use are counting on the absence of enforcement.
Last year, the state Legislature addressed some of these concerns by requiring doctors to keep records and to perform follow-up visits, yet little funding for enforcement has been provided. Without proper funding and a process for oversight, enforcement will continue to be inconsistent.
The current medical marijuana model in Colorado does not adequately distinguish between those who reasonably use marijuana for medical reasons and those seeking to exploit the dispensary model for their own gain.
Once again, those who will be inconvenienced by this situation are patients who have obtained medical marijuana recommendations to treat genuine health concerns.