Thursday, June 10, 2010

Washington Patients Now Have Better Access To Medical Marijuana

By Steve Elliott in Toke of the Town

Photo: World of Work
Starting Thursday, June 10, Washington residents with terminal or debilitating medical conditions will have better access to getting authorized to use medical marijuana, a prominent Democratic legislator has announced.

Washington's newest improvement on the medical marijuana program expands the number of health care providers who are legally allowed to recommend medical marijuana to patients, according to its sponsor, state Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle).

Until now, only medical doctors could legally authorize patients to use cannabis medicinally in Washington State. Senate Bill 5798, Kohl-Welles, now extends the ability to authorize the medical use of marijuana to other licensed health professionals who are authorized to prescribe controlled substances.

Professionals who may now authorize medical marijuana use include naturopathic doctors, advanced registered nurse practitioners, physician assistants and osteopathic physician assistants.

"Many patients rely on medical professionals other the MDs and ODs," Kohl-Welles said. "To remain committed to Washington voters' long commitment to medical marijuana for qualifying patients, we must allow additional medical professionals to recommend medical marijuana."

Thumbnail image for kohl-welles1.jpg
Photo: Senate Democrats WA
State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles sponsored SB 5798, which expands the number of healthcare professionals who can authorize medical marijuana
​"This bill will provide real relief to those who are suffering, particularly those who live in rural areas and low-income individuals who typically see advanced nurse practitioners rather than MDs," Kohl-Welles said.

"Providing this relief honors the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved the medical marijuana initiative in 1998," Kohl-Welles said. "It will not make marijuana more readily available to non-qualifying individuals."

"Allowing responsible health care professionals to also recommend medical marijuana -- a substance far safer and less addictive than many Schedule II opiates -- simply makes sense," said legislative analyst Robert J. Capecchi of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

"Furthermore, many patients, especially those in rural areas, have limited access to physicians, so they receive their health care from other professionals, such as advanced practice registered nurses," Capecchi said. "With this important change, access to a physician will no longer be a prerequisite to obtaining a medical marijuana recommendation."

"It is always a good day when legislators and executives listen to logic and reason and pass sensible marijuana policy," Capecchi said.

"Kudos for this new law can be directed at bill sponsor Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and the 85 dues-paying members of the Cannabis Defense Coalition, who worked to promote this low-profile legislation," said CDC spokesman Ben Livingston.

You can read the entire text of SB 5798 as it was signed into law by Gov. Gregoire here (PDF).