Struggles in searching for doctors to sign off on medical marijuana application

Good Day Dakota

Last month, KX News reported a story about the fact that the current amount of medical marijuana patients is way behind what was projected when the law passed two years ago.

One family says that could be because it’s hard to find a doctor to sign the required certification that would allow patients to apply for a medical marijuana card.

A local woman explained to KX News that a misdiagnosis, that she later learned was Lyme Disease, has left her with pain so bad that she barely has any motor function.

When medical marijuana was legalized in North Dakota, she thought that could help her. That was until she started hitting walls when it came to finding a doctor to sign her certification to apply.
She didn’t want to be on camera, but her husband spoke out on the frustration.

“You can go get it on the streets easier than going through this, but that makes you a criminal then,” Duane Marmon said.

Duane’s wife has had intensifying chronic pain since 2009, making her almost completely dependent on her husband.

“I’m practically a prisoner of my house,” she said.

“Now we’re trying to get it and it seems like the legislature has been dragging their feet and making it harder and harder for people to get it,” said Marmon.” My wife has read books on it and it seems like something that she should be able to at least try to get some relief for her pain.”

She’s a patient at CHI St. Alexius, which has a policy where they will not sign off on medical marijuana for their patients.

That leaves it up to her to take the time to – essentially – doctor shop. But because she has an existing medical provider, she said her insurance won’t cover those appointments, making it a trying and expensive search.

“What am I supposed to do?” she said, “I’m practically trapped.” 
And it appears that she’s not the only one.

Director of the Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Division, Jason Wahl, said, “We’ve heard from individuals that call in and inform us that, ‘my healthcare provider wouldn’t sign it”

Provider concerns could be for many reasons. One, in particular, has been voiced at the legislature about the language in the certification that requires doctors to attest their professional opinion that the patient would, in fact, benefit from medical marijuana.

House Bill 1417 would remove that language. It’s been passed in the House and is moving on to the Senate. (HB 1283 would also modify the current law.)

“The change made to the written certification by the House of Representatives certainly would alleviate certain concerns we’ve heard from the medical community,” added Wahl.

And perhaps it could help Marmon. But, she would still be tasked with looking for doctors.

She and her husband feel that there should be an easier way of finding doctors willing to sign the certification.

The law says that the state cannot provide a list of doctor’s who are willing to certify a medical marijuana application.

However, it does not stop medical providers from advertising or making it known to the public that they’re willing to sign off on it.

Jason Wahl told KX News that he’s heard similar stories from other states about doctors being apprehensive at first, and the Medical Marijuana Division is working on education for healthcare providers to hopefully get more on board. 

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