Telemedicine for Certifications
In order to protect patients and prevent the spread of COVID-19, we request that the wording of the executive order 2020-15 be amended to allow medical marijuana certification appointments be done via telemedicine during the COVID-19 crisis.
As we do not know the timeline of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is imperative that we support patients with therapies that have shown to improve quality of life, and do so without further endangering their health and safety.
Supposed Cause for Exclusion:
We understand that the exclusion of medical cannabis certifications in the Governor's Executive Order was worded as such because the therapies involved are not considered "prescriptions" but rather "certifications".
Medical Marijuana patient interactions are medical visits:
Medical visits for medical marijuana certifications are the same as any other patient visit, although they can be very focused. The top two consistent chief complaints of patients interested in medical marijuana are Chronic Pain (~89%) and Cancer (~1.8%) (December 2019 AZDHS Monthly Report, with similar 2019 monthly stats). Recommendations are put forth to patients based on their past medical history and current condition, along with the review of supporting documentation. Conventional and non-conventional therapies are typically discussed along with medical marijuana.
Medical cannabis use is associated with decreased opiate medication use, and an improvement in quality of life (Boehnke, et.al. 2016 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2016.03.002). Current telemedicine guidelines as put forth by the Governor's Executive Order encourage the prescription of opioid therapies, but do not recognize the benefit of medical marijuana for pain management and therefore improved quality of life.
The Danger to Patients:
Patients are still seeking out practitioners for medical marijuana due to their chronic pain, cancer therapies, or other AZ DHS approved uses, despite the Governor's Stay-at-Home order. Patients with higher risk profiles are the ones typically seeking out medical marijuana, and while medical offices are following CDC guidelines, patients are still potentially exposed to COVID-19 during these visits. Many patients with a cancer diagnosis have compromised immune systems, putting them in a higher risk category for COVID-19 infection.
We ask that medical marijuana certification be specifically added to the list of procedures allowed by physicians for a telemedicine visit to improve the health and safety of patients who are seeking medical marijuana certification for their AZ DHS approved uses. All requirements and precautions would be recognized for a telemedicine visit as stipulated by the respective medical board.