HMO Says Docs Free to Recommend Marijuana

Colorado physicians are free to recommend the medical use of marijuana to their patients in accordance with state law, lawyers for Kaiser Permanente have determined. Attorneys for the HMO were asked by doctors to review the issue after the governor and attorney general warned that physicians who endorse marijuana therapy to a patient face the risk of federal prosecution.
Under Colorado’s new medical pot law, patients may legally possess and grow marijuana if their physician provides written documentation that they “might benefit from the medical use of marijuana.”
“Using their own judgment, doctors can sign or not, depending on what they think is the right thing to do,” said Steve Krizman, a Kaiser spokesman in Colorado. Kaiser Permanente is America’s largest not-for-profit health maintenance organization.
NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup praised Kaiser’s stance. “In essence, the HMO is telling doctors that they should treat marijuana no differently than they do any other legitimate medicine,” he said.
To date, approximately 50 patients have been approved to use medical marijuana under the law, which took effect on June 1. Similar laws are in effect in eight other states.
In California, doctors and patients in 1997 filed a class action suit in federal court (Conant v McCaffrey) arguing that they have a constitutional right to recommend the use of marijuana to a patient. The court agreed, ruling last year that federal authorities could not sanction doctors for exercising their rights to free speech.
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.