States temporarily approve cannabis telemedicine

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More than two dozen states have temporarily permitted prescribing medical cannabis via telemedicine. As virtual visits gain financial support from the federal government and insurance agencies, the temporary approvals could boost patient volume for practitioners and provide care to hundreds of patients.

Prior to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, few states allowed providers to conduct virtual appointments for medical marijuana, including initial consultations or patient education and check-ups, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. Now, some allow telemedicine for all visits, while others require initial meetings take place in person with virtual follow-up appointments.

States granting this approval include Maryland, Oregon, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, and Rhode Island. For example, Maryland issued its temporary authorization on April 7, which states “the Commission will allow a certifying health care provider who is registered with the Commission to provide a written certification to a qualifying patient via telehealth under limited circumstances.”

The Maryland order applies to an initial written certification and a written certification renewal. Further, a certifying provider may only issue or renew a written certification via telehealth if the certifying provider reviews the patient’s medical records, completes an assessment of the patient’s medical history and current medical condition, and creates and maintains records of the patient’s condition in accord with medically accepted standards. Additionally, the provider must determine that the patient meets the certifying provider’s inclusion criteria, does not meet the certifying provider’s exclusion criteria, and the potential benefits of the medical use of cannabis likely outweigh the health risks of the patient.

Before providing treatment or issuing a certification through telehealth, Maryland-based healthcare providers are required to an perform an in-person clinical evaluation. While specific legislation and language differs by state, those allowing temporary certifications are similar. Most states include something to the effect of “upon termination of the state of emergency, this bulletin will terminate and certifying providers may no longer issue a written certification via telehealth.”

Some practitioners and patients are calling for the authorizations to be made permanent.

Editor’s note: Click here for more information and ongoing COVID-19 updates for integrative healthcare professionals.