April 23, 2019

Medical Marijuana – Can I Prescribe It?

(A Practical Guide to Getting Started)
By Erica Pero

 

CBD oil seems to be the miracle drug du jour. From epilepsy to anxiety, CBD oil is making its way across the nation as states legalize its use. Virginia recently enacted laws that allow medical professionals to assist patients to purchase CBD oil and THC-A oil, but it isn’t like writing a prescription for antibiotics. So – when patients start asking about medical marijuana, what should you do?

First, we’re talking about oil derived from medical marijuana, not from hemp products. Hemp is an industrial crop with almost 0% THC. The CBD oils you see for sale in your local gas station or supplement store are made with CBD oil from hemp, not medical marijuana – and NOT regulated. New laws in Virginia now allow medical professionals to certify patients to purchase oils that contain THC – the drug that gets you “high” – and which ARE regulated.

Second, marijuana possession is still illegal in Virginia. Recent legal developments give Virginians an “affirmative defense” to possession of products containing THC for those who have been given a “written certification” by a “registered professional” and have registered with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy. Theoretically speaking, if you jump through all the hoops, when the drug-sniffing dogs stop your car the law allows you to hold up your registration card and continue on your merry way. (Which is probably what usually happens, but I’m a lawyer and law school was full of scary drug-sniffing dog scenarios where no one went on their merry way.)

Medical Professionals: 
Physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants must first register with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to obtain “written certification”. This registration is separate from obtaining a DEA number, as CDB and THC-A oil are not drugs approved by the FDA. The initial physician registration fee is $50, and the annual renewal fee is also $50. It takes 7-10 days to receive a written certification from the Board of Pharmacy. Once you receive your written certification, you can certify patients. It’s also important to note that registered physicians are limited to certifying 600 patients.

Patients: 
Before purchasing CBD or THC-A oils from a dispensary, patients must first: (1) obtain “written certification” from a certified physician AND (2) register with the Board of Pharmacy. If the patient is a minor or otherwise incapacitated, a parent or legal guardian can complete the process on the patient’s behalf, but the parent/guardian must also complete an application for themselves and any other parent/guardian who may possess the oils on behalf of the minor. The registration fee for patients, parents, and guardians is $50/person. Patients may purchase products from any of the five dispensaries in Virginia but must appear in person at the dispensary before purchasing for the first time. Patients can purchase up to a 90-day supply.

This is a very dynamic area of law that is changing rapidly. Please consult a healthcare attorney.

Erica Pero, an attorney with Pero Law, focuses her practice on health law. She helps healthcare professionals navigate the complexities of running a business in today’s healthcare  industry.  Pero Law is a lean law firm committed to excellent customer service and exceptional legal representation. perolaw.com