Clilpboard: Mass. Medical Society to advocate for monitoring but no delay on medical marijuana

The Massachusetts Medical Society at its annual meeting Saturday decided not to ask for a delay in implementation of the state’s medical marijuana program. Instead, the state’s largest physician organization will push for regulations requiring doctors certifying patients for medical marijuana to enter patient information into a state database.

The group opposed a ballot measure that passed by a wide margin last month, legalizing marijuana for medical use. For a story in Sunday’s Globe, Liz Kowalczyk talked with members at a society meeting, where they also voted to push for state rules requiring doctors to reevaluate patients authorized to use marijuana at given intervals and determine that those patients cannot effectively be treated with conventional methods.

The group wants doctors involved in the program to report marijuana authorizations they issue for patients to the state Prescription Monitoring Program, meant to prevent “doctor-shopping” among people who use strong prescription painkillers. Dr. James Broadhurst, who led the society’s opposition to the ballot initiative this fall, proposed the policy recommendations, Kowalczyk writes:

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“You are asking [physicians] to make a judgment about the risks and benefits of marijuana” for a patient, Broadhurst said. “If I’m prescribing a benzodiazepine, which has sedative effects, I need to know if the person is taking medical marijuana.’’

Ultimately, he said, doctors want to make sure that only patients who are very sick and have exhausted all other remedies have access to marijuana.

“We recognize that the law is binding as a result of the vote,” Dr. Richard Aghababian, president of the medical society, said in a press release issued Sunday. “But as written, the law poses many unanswered questions. ... As the law requires physician participation to certify patients, it is imperative that we provide perspective and input on these issues as regulations are developed to govern the full implementation of the medical marijuana law.”

Broadhurst’s recommendation that the group also push for a delay in the law was turned down by medical society members.

“The voters want it and our patients want it,’’ Dr. Eric Ruby, a pediatrician in Taunton who has advocated for the law, told Kowalczyk. “You cannot put the Massachusetts Medical Society above the law.’’