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Ohio MMJ Program Update: State Med Board Changes Telemed Policy

Changes to Ohio’s Telemed Policy Impacting Medical Marijuana Card Holders, CTR Doctors 

Last week, the State Medical Board of Ohio issued guidance that telemedicine appointments for medical marijuana patients in the state would no longer be permitted. Telemedicine appointments were temporarily allowed as a response to COVID-19, but it appears the Board has now reversed that decision in light of lifted pandemic sanctions. 

 

Ohio Changes its Ruling on Telemed

Beginning on September 17th, 2021, patients interested in a medical marijuana card in Ohio will once again need to be seen in-office to be evaluated for their recommendation. According to the notice that came from the Medical Bboard to certified to recommend (CTR) physicians: “Physicians in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program are required to establish a bona fide physician-patient relationship to recommend medical marijuana. Ohio law (Ohio Revised Code 4731.30) and Medical Board rule (Ohio Administrative Code 4731-32-03) require a physician to conduct an in-person physical examination of the patient prior to the first recommendation. The physician may issue a recommendation for 90 days and up to three renewals for 90 days each. Once the three renewals have been made, the physician is required again to perform a physical examination before they can issue another recommendation.”

 

The State’s Reasoning

Jerica Stewart from the Ohio State Medical Board explained the state’s reasoning, stating, “To prioritize patient safety, the Medical Board suspended enforcement of these regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed physicians with a CTR to use telemedicine in place of in-person visits. Now that the state of emergency has been lifted, the board will resume enforcement on September 17, 2021. Once again, this will require initial visits and annual renewals to be completed in-person.”

 

Advocates Respond 

Glenn Perry, Managing Partner, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Physicians Association (OMMPA), said that in general, he believes there are some appropriate uses for telemedicine in the Medical Marijuana arena, although not for every patient-doctor interaction. “The appropriate uses include (1) a CTR Physician validating that a patient has a qualifying condition, after the patient has received a prior diagnosis from a primary care physician or specialist, based on a thorough check-up; and (2) a CTR Physician renewing a patient’s card.”

 

Robert Kowalski, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Board’s Patient Advocate, had this to say about the change: “Telemedicine was implemented within the program to assist with a burden of patients inability to travel based on a immune compromised issue that took place during a pandemic. Telemedicine has become a staple in all medical practices and I feel it is a step backwards in the development and sustainability of our program. Fear and personal agendas around this program have continued to place extra, and often times, unnecessary burdens on the sick and disabled who have found relief from this Essential Medicine.”

 

The Executive Leadership team at Duber Medical agrees. “This update severely limits a patient’s access to quality care. Through telemedicine, our patients have had access to expert physicians via telemedicine, regardless of where the physician and patient are geographically located. This change to take away telemedicine affects those patients who are already the most vulnerable or disadvantaged socio-economically, as well as geographically. By terminating telemedicine, these patients are now forced to terminate their existing medical relationship with their physician of choice, locate a new physician in their region and potentially still have to drive several hours to be seen for their annual assessment.

The decision of the State Medical Board to discontinue access to medical marijuana recommendations via telemedicine is a giant step backward for patients and the program, in our mind. Those that will bear the brunt of this change will be the disabled, economically challenged and rural patients. These are our most vulnerable. In addition, they have traditionally had limited access to care, which limits competitive pricing in their marketplace. Patients have a right to quality care and telemedicine has raised the bar by giving patients 24 hour access to their physicians at a competitive price point, weekly communication on the state program and educational resources that are right at their finger tips.” 

 

What Can Patients Do?

New patients can still be evaluated to receive their medical marijuana card online via Telemed until September 17th. After that date, you’ll need to see a medical marijuana doctor in person to be evaluated for a medical cannabis card in Ohio. 

If your card is up for renewal, you can get it online until September 17th, 2021. After that date, you’ll need to see a medical marijuana doctor in person to receive your renewal.

Patients or physicians with questions about the resumed enforcement of in-person visits may contact the Medical Board at [email protected]. The Medical Board is within their power to reverse their decision or (at the very least) extend the deadline for Telemed until year’s end so that patients have sufficient time to make needed changes. 

 

The state has created an FAQ document for physicians to provide guidance on telemedicine in Ohio. The document includes medical marijuana recommendations and can be accessed here.

 

While the Medical Board has made the decision, state legislators could enact a law to overrule it. Those who oppose this change should also consider contacting their Ohio legislator via phone or email to express their concerns.

 

Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca

Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She’s held positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical, and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.

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