prescribing controlled substances

Home/Tag: prescribing controlled substances

Shortage of Florida Physicians Approved to Recommend “Green Leaf Relief” for Patients

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Florida may be “going green” in a big way come November 2016; and I’m not talking about recycling.  The Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, or Ballot Initiative Amendment 2, has undergone revisions, and will likely be making its second run with voters since its marginal loss in 2014.  Promoters of the Constitutional Amendment predict success; hopefully this isn’t just a pipe dream.

However, the Florida Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, currently allows low-THC cannabis to be utilized only by qualifying patients for certain medical ailments.  A licensed physician, as outlined in Chapter 458 or 459 of Florida Statutes, is required to qualify patients for the use of medical marijuana.

For FAQ’s on low-THC cannabis issued by the Florida Department of Health (DOH), click here.

Physician Requirements for Qualifying Patients and Ordering.

For a patient to qualify to obtain and use THC, a previously approved physician must examine and currently be treating a patient for a debilitating illness.  Such illnesses include cancer or any physical medical condition or ailment that produces chronic seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms (such as epilepsy or multiple sclerosis).  Furthermore, the physician must have tried all other options of treatment without satisfactory results.  Medical marijuana must be a last resort alternative.  Section 381.986(2), Florida Statutes (2015).

One of the physician ordering requirements is that the doctor must “register as the orderer of low-THC cannabis for the named patient on the compassionate use registry maintained by the department [of health] and update the registry to reflect the contents of the order.”  Section 381.986(2)(c), Florida Statutes (2015).

In order to become registered in Florida, licensed physicians must successfully complete an 8-hour course, offered by either the Florida Medical Association (FMA) or the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association (FOMA).  It is necessary for the physician to satisfactorily pass an examination upon completion of the course.  Section 381.986(4), Florida Statutes (2015).

Currently, only 42 doctors varied throughout Florida in areas to include Orlando, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, have signed up for authorization.

Why the Lack of Physicians?

Several theories may account for the lack of physician involvement in the program in Florida.

One of the theories that may explain why physicians are hesitant to jump on board with this new-age line of treatment, is the lack of scientific research conducted in the United States to back the medical efficacy of medical marijuana.  Scientists are reluctant to answer even the most basic questions about the use of medical marijuana including the long-term risks, actual benefits and the overall effect of legalization.

Many physicians may be concerned that the use of medical marijuana is supported more by popular opinion than on actual medical research.

However, a primary reason for insignificant research may be due to the unavailability of the drug for scientific study due to its illegal status.  The federal government entirely restricts the authorization to use marijuana for medical research.  The media is replete with stories on this.  As the debate over marijuana and its legalization for medical use becomes more widespread and pertinent, the drug has concurrently become more available for research.

For more information on current medical marijuana research efforts as reported by U.S.A. Today, click here.

Who Will Dispense the Marijuana?

Another hold-up in support from physicians may be due to the fact that the Department of Health (DOH) is still in the process of selecting the five dispensing organizations throughout Florida that will be developing and dispensing the drug.

As originally proposed, this requires an arduous application process presently consisting of proposals from 24 competing companies.  A dispensing organization must have the ability to meet several requirements as set forth in the statues, including the financial ability to post a $5 million performance bond upon approval.  Section 381.986(5)(b), Florida Statutes (2015).

Many physicians are still waiting to know where the drugs will be dispensed, what the dosages will be, what forms they will be available in and how much they will cost.  These are all important factors to consider in determining whether or not medical marijuana may be beneficial to certain patients.

Penalties for Misuse.

A final reason for physician avoidance of marijuana is fear of criminal prosecution and discipline by their boards, given the lingering gray areas of the law.

To read one of our previous blogs regarding a federal judge’s challenge of the DOJ’s incorrect interpretation of federal law on medical marijuana prosecutions and a win for medical marijuana advocates across the nation, click here.

It is undisputed that the use of medical marijuana is on the rise.  Therefore, any licensed physician who is contemplating or has already signed up for the program, needs to be sure they are in strict compliance with Florida law.

A physician is committing a misdemeanor, which may result in criminal penalties, if he or she orders low-THC cannabis for a patient without possessing a reasonable belief that the patient is suffering from one of the debilitating medical conditions as described in Section 381.986(3)(a)(1) and (2), Florida Statutes.

It is one of the ongoing duties of the dispensing organizations established by the Department to “monitor physician registration and ordering of low-THC cannabis for ordering practices that could facilitate unlawful diversion or misuse of low-THC cannabis and take disciplinary action as indicated.”  Section 381.986(5)(b)(7)(c), Florida Statutes (2015).

Therefore, a physician interested in obtaining authorization to order medical marijuana for his or her patients, should contact an experienced health attorney as a safeguard to ensure he or she complies fully with the law.

Comments?

Why do you believe there is a lack of physician involvement in Florida in the medical marijuana program?  What are your thoughts on the availability of medical marijuana in Florida?

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Sources:

Powers, Scott.  “Medical-pot backers unfazed only 42 doctors in program.”  Orlando Sentinel 20 August 2015: Final.  Print.

Caputo, Mark.  “Medical marijuana supporters unveil new proposal for 2016.”  Miami Herald.  8 January 2015.  Web.  27 August 2015.

Keywords: medical marijuana lawyer, marijuana attorney, low-THC cannabis, medical cannabis, complaint against physician, Florida law, health attorney, doctor defense attorney Department of Health, Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, disciplinary action for prescribing, medical marijuana regulations, prescribing controlled substances, physicians recommending marijuana, health regulation lawyer, medical license defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, health law attorney, DEA defense lawyer, medical marijuana ordering physician, compassionate-use in Florida, physician certifications for medical marijuana, cannabis for treatment of debilitating medical condition

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Will Florida Senate Be Pressured into Expanding the Authority of Nurses?

indest1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On April 28, 2014, the Connecticut House of Representatives approved a bill giving nurse practitioners greater autonomy to diagnose and treat patients without doctors’ oversight. Connecticut is one out of 17 states and the District of Columbia to allow nurse practitioners to work independently of physicians. Similar measures are pending in several other states, including Florida.

The Florida House of Representatives passed the bill (CS/CS/HB 7113) on April 25, 2014, that expands the range of practice for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). The bill is expected to be heard in the Florida Senate soon. If passed, this policy shift would likely lead to profound changes in the way health care is practiced in Florida.

Details of the Florida Bill.

Currently, in Florida, nurse practitioners must work under the supervision of physicians. This bill would change the title of what are usually called nurse practitioners or advanced registered nurse practitioners. These are registered nurses who have post-college education, usually a master’s degree. The proposed change would retitle these health professionals to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

These nurses would gain new authority under the bill, such as the ability to sign documents that now require a physician’s signature, and the opportunity to earn the title “Independent Advance Practice Registered Nurse” after a certain amount of training and experience. Nurse practitioners would no longer have to contract with and pay a “supervising” physician. Another somewhat controversial aspect of the bill is to allow these nurses to gain the authority to prescribe controlled substances.

Increasing Pressure to Pass Similar Bill.

The present Florida bill is being supported as a means to fulfill the anticipated growing need for medical services expected with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Especially in certain segments of the medical population, APRNs are already providing a large amount of this care, and the bill acknowledges and grants the authority for this.

With so many states, especially up in the northeast, agreeing to expand the scope of practice to qualified nurse practitioners, we wonder if this will have an effect on the Senate vote in Florida. Snow birds coming to Florida will be comfortable being treated by nurse practitioners and will expect the same level of care when they come down to the Sunshine State.

Opposition May Kill the Bill.

The opposition to this effort is strong and vocal, with the various state medical associations leading the way. For these groups, the issue is one of preservation of the practice of medicine as the domain of the physician. They are accepting of medical practice by physician “extenders,” but not by “providers” who are not physicians. The members of these opposition groups are a formidable force, respected in their communities and able to make significant political contributions. These are not groups that many legislators would want to rankle.

However, a review of the history of medicine in the United States shows that this is a battle the medical doctors are likely to lose. Similar arguments have been made in the past when other types of health care practitioners have sought legal authority to practice their professions. Immediately coming to mind are osteopathic physicians (D.O.s), chiropractic physicians (D.C.s) and midwives (CMs) to name a few. Some have had to bring antitrust lawsuits to obtain relief.

Be sure to check this blog regularly for updates to this story.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent registered nurses, nurse practitioners, advanced practice registered nurses, certified registered nurse anesthetists, midwives and licensed practical nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What are your thoughts on the bill? Do you think nurse practitioners should have more autonomy? Or do you believe nurse practitioners should be supervised by physicians? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Altimari, Daniela. “State Moves to Give Nurses Independence From Doctors.” The Courant. (April 28, 2014). From: http://www.courant.com/health/connecticut/hc-aprn-bill-20140428,0,7595375.story

Catala, Paul. “Bill Giving Nurses More Authority Passes House.” Highlands Today. (April 28, 2014). From: http://highlandstoday.com/hi/local-news/bill-giving-nurses-more-authority-passes-house-20140429/

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Bill to Expand Authority of Nurses Flatlines During 2014 Legislative Session

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar   in Health Law

The 2014 Legislative Session ended May 2, 2014, with the death of an omnibus health bill. House Bill 7113 would have provided provisions to expand the power of nurse practitioners to work independently of physicians’ oversight. This extension of authority to nurses would no longer require them to contract with and pay a “supervising” physician. The bill died after being passed back and forth between the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate numerous times. It could not be resuscitated or kept alive by artificial means.

Currently, Florida nurse practitioners must work under direct supervision of physicians. The bill would have changed the title of nurse practitioners or advanced registered nurse practitioners. These are registered nurses with post-college education, usually a Master’s degree. The denied change would have retitled these health professionals to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). The bill would have also provided nurses the authority to sign documents that currently require a physician’s signature. This would have included the ability to prescribe controlled substances.

There is a total of 17 states in the United States that have adopted similar bills allowing nurse practitioners to work independently of physicians as APRNs.

To read the entire article from Modern Healthcare, click here.

Conflicting Opinions of the Bill.

Proponents of expanding nurse practitioner autonomy argue that the bill would reduce health care costs in addition to solving a critical shortage of primary care physicians. Because of the high enrollment numbers associated with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is anticipated that the need for physicians and health care providers will dramatically increase. Supporters also argue that northerners will be accustom to treatment by nurse practitioners because states such as Connecticut and New York have passed similar bills. They will expect the same level of care when moving to Florida during the winter months.

Opponents of the bill, led by various medical associations, argue the dangers of allocating such power to nurses. They warn that nurses should not have access to prescribing controlled substances without a doctor’s supervision. This argument is defended by highlighting Florida’s constant struggles with high numbers of pill mill busts. The medical associations opposing the bill are passionate in preserving the practice of medicine for the physician. In the end, opponents were granted their wish.

To read more on House Bill 7113, click here for a previous blog.

Even though the bill did not pass this legislative session, we expect this will not be the end of the fight to allow nurse practitioners to work independently of physicians.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent registered nurses, nurse practitioners, advanced practice registered nurses, certified registered nurse anesthetists, midwives and licensed practical nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Is providing a trained nurse practitioner with greater authority to treat and prescribe really a controversial subject? How do you stand on the topic? What benefits or dangers could arise from providing nurses with greater independence? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

“Health Bill Dies in Florida Legislature.” Modern Healthcare. (May 3, 2014). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20140503/INFO/305039930

About the Author:  George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Florida Nurse Practitioners Fight for Autonomy

indest1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On February 18, 2014, a bill that would expand the authority of nurse practitioners and would allow some to practice independently of physicians was approved by the Florida House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovations. Despite opposition from physician groups, the bill (PCB SCHCWI 14-01) was overwhelmingly approved 13 to 2. However, some of that support might be fleeting.

To read bill PCB SCHCWI 14-01, click here.

Details of the Bill.

Currently, nurse practitioners work under the supervision of physicians. This bill would change the title of what are usually called nurse practitioners, which are registered nurses who have post-college education, usually a master’s degree, to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). The bill would also apply to specialists, such as certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), certified nurse midwives and certified nurse practitioners.

These nurses would gain new powers under the bill, such as the ability to sign documents that now require a physician’s signature, and the opportunity to earn the title “Independent Advance Practice Registered Nurse” after a certain amount of training and experience. Nurse practitioners would no longer have to contract with and pay a “supervising” physician. Another controversial aspect of the bill is to allow these nurses to gain the authority to prescribe controlled substances. Currently, Florida is one of the few states that do not allow this.

Supporters and Opponents Cannot Agree.

Even though the vote drew bipartisan support, several committee members said their support was tentative, and that they wanted to see further debate and amendments.

According to Health News Florida, the President of the Florida Senate reported he opposes the House bill. Many physician groups, including the Florida Medical Association, agree. These groups point out that physicians receive years of additional training to provide care. They also raise the question why students would want to rack up huge amounts of debt to attend medical school if they could do much of the same work as nurse practitioners with less schooling.

Supporters state this bill will help increase access to primary care, particularly in rural areas. Nurse practitioners also state they already provide much of the care that physician groups bill for. It’s argued that similar laws are already in place in a majority of states around the country, according to The News Service of Florida. To read the entire article from The News Service of Florida, click here.

Expanded Scope of Practice for Nurse Practitioners Already Working in Other States.

According to Health News Florida, 23 other states already allow independent practice for nurse practitioners. Also, military services and the Veterans Administration Health System, already allow nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled drugs and allow independent practice. Florida is the only state that prohibits nurse practitioners from prescribing controlled substances.

According to Health News Florida, the issue is not expected to be considered during the upcoming Legislative session. Click here to read the entire Health News Florida article.

Be sure to check this blog regularly for updates to this story.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent registered nurses, nurse practitioners, advanced registered nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, midwives and licensed practical nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What are your thoughts on the bill? Do you think nurse practitioners should have more autonomy? Or do you believe nurse practitioners should be supervised by physicians? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Saunders, Jim. “Nurse Practitioners Win First Round In Fight Over ‘Scope.'” The News Service of Florida. (February 22, 2014). From: http://www.theledger.com/article/20140222/NEWS/140229772/1374?Title=Nurse-Practitioners-Win-First-Round-In-Fight-Over-8216-Scope

Gentry, Carol. “Senate Pres.: No On Nurses’ Bill.” Health News Florida. (February 24, 2014). From: http://health.wusf.usf.edu/post/senate-pres-no-nurses-bill

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Physicians Allowed to “Recommend” But Not “Prescribe” Medical Marijuana for Patients

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, Florida patients suffering from cancer or a physical medical condition that produces chronic symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscles spasms can qualify for the use of low-THC cannabis.

To read the full legislative language of the Florida compassionate-use act, click here.

Florida has been preparing physicians to qualify patients for the use of medical marijuana for nearly a year. So far, only 42 doctors have completed the process for the medical marijuana program, which consists of passing an eight-hour continuing education course and a subsequent examination.

However, after all other alternative treatment options have proven to be unsuccessful, even registered physicians will not be prescribing the drug low in the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and high in cannabidiol (CBD) to patients qualified for its use. This is because prescribing marijuana in any form, even low-THC cannabis, is against federal law. Therefore, the way Florida law is written, qualified physicians may “recommend” or write a “recommendation” for medical marijuana for a patient.

Prescribing Medical Marijuana is a Violation of the Federal Controlled Substances Act.

In order to prescribe controlled substances, physicians must first register with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The DEA categorizes each controlled substance by potency, potential for abuse and accepted safety or medical use with schedules utilizing roman numerals.

Medical marijuana (even low-THC cannabis) is categorized as a Schedule I drug, meaning it currently has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, it has no accepted safety for use under medical supervision and it possesses a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are illegal to prescribe, even by physicians registered with the DEA.

For more information on prescribing controlled substances from the American Nurses Association, click here.

How Will Qualified Patients Receive Medical Marijuana for Treatment?

While physicians are barred from prescribing low-THC cannabis, despite the compassionate-use act that became effective on January 1, 2015, physicians registered in the program will instead be providing qualified patients with”physician certifications.” A physician certification for a qualifying patient is basically a written document signed by a physician.

The document must profess the physician has examined the patient and currently maintains a treatment plan for the patient, and in the physician’s professional opinion such patient suffers from a “debilitating medical condition,” as specified by Florida law. Furthermore, the physician must assert that all other alternative treatment options have been unsuccessful in relieving symptoms associated with the patient’s illness.

Other conditions apply for qualifying patients and for physician ordering of medical marijuana. For more information on additional requirements, click here to refer to Section 381.986, Florida Statutes.

Will Physicians Face Federal Prosecution for Providing Qualified Patients with Medical Marijuana?

In a press release issued by the Department of Justice in October of 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder announced formal guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that possess laws authorizing the use of medical marijuana. Attorney General Holder emphasized that the focus of federal resources should not be on the individuals acting in compliance with state laws. However, prosecution will continue for those individuals claiming to comply with state laws but acting against the terms, conditions and purposes of those laws.

To read the full press release by the Department of Justice dated October 19, 2009, click here.

In a memorandum issued by Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, dated October 19, 2009 and referenced by Attorney General Holder, the Deputy Attorney General states in pertinent part:

“The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime…The prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, and the disruption of illegal drug manufacturing and trafficking networks continues to be a core priority…As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

To read the full memorandum for more information on what constitutes “clear and unambiguous compliance,” click here.

To read a more recent memorandum of Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, stressing the importance of strong regulatory and enforcement systems in states where medical marijuana is legal, click here.

Finally, to read the DEA’s Position Paper on Marijuana, click here.

Comments?

Are you signing up as a physician authorized to order medical marijuana for qualified patients in the state of Florida? If no, is it because you are concerned about possible federal prosecution?

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Attorney General Announces Formal Medical Marijuana Guidelines.” Press release. 19 Oct. 2009. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

Powers, Scott. “Marijuana Program Draws 42 Doctors Statewide.” Health. Orlando Sentinel: 19 Aug. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

Sherman, Amy and Gillin, Joshua. “PolitiFact Florida: Will Doctors Write Prescriptions for Medical Marijuana if You Have an Itchy Back?” PolitiFact Florida. Tampa Bay Times: 23 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

Wright, Esq., Brian K. “The Regulatory Impact of Medical Marijuana on Health Care Providers and Other Stakeholders.” PowerPoint presentation. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone (407) 331-6620.

Keywords: Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, Florida medical marijuana, low-THC cannabis in Florida, medical marijuana, medical marijuana lawyer, qualifying patients for medical marijuana, medical marijuana defense attorney, defense lawyer, health lawyer, health law attorney, physician certifications for medical marijuana, cannabis for treatment of debilitating medical condition, medical marijuana ordering physician, medical marijuana federal prosecution defense attorney, prescribing controlled substances, DEA defense lawyer, guidelines for federal prosecutors, compassionate-use in Florida, Drug Enforcement Agency physician registration, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Federal Judge Challenges the Justice Department’s Interpretation of Federal Law Restricting Medical Marijuana Prosecutions

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In a federal case involving a California-based medical marijuana dispensary and the United States, regarding a motion to dissolve a permanent injunction, a federal judge challenged the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) so-called “tortured” interpretation of the law.  U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer pronounced that the DOJ’s interpretation is “at odds with fundamental notions of the rule of law.”  Judge Breyer went so far as to say that the DOJ’s analysis of the plain language Amendment was “counterintuitive and opportunistic.”

At issue in this case is a law passed last year by Congress which purposes to restrain the Justice Department’s efforts to prevent the implementation and use of medical marijuana in states where it has been legalized.  The applicable portion of the federal law in dispute is Section 538 of the 2015 Appropriations Act (otherwise known as the “Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment”).  The Amendment states that the DOJ is barred from using federal funds to “prevent such States [where medical cannabis has been legalized] from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

The federal court decision found that the DOJ incorrectly interpreted the federal law to mean that it cannot prosecute the state itself for implementing mandates authorizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes but that it could still prosecute individuals and businesses carrying out state mandates or operating within state law.

To read the order of the court regarding briefing and hearing in United States of America v. Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and Lynette Shaw, click here.

DOJ Issues “Cole Memo” to Clarify.

Former Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote a memo to all U.S. attorneys stating that the DOJ would exercise prosecutorial discretion and not pursue marijuana cases in those states where it is legal relying upon:

“[an] expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health, and other law enforcement interests.”

This has now come to be known as the “Cole memo.”  Click here to read the Cole memo in its entirety.

Facts of the Federal Court Case.

Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (“Marin Alliance”) based in Fairfax, California, closed its doors in late 2011, folding under pressure from the federal government, even though it was operating legally according to California law.  It was known as the state’s oldest marijuana dispensary.  It first opened its doors in November 1996, when California legalized medical marijuana.

Marin Alliance was initially targeted by the DOJ due to its close proximity to Bolinas Park.  According to federal law, medical marijuana dispensaries cannot be within 1,000 feet of a park or school, to deter the sale of cannabis to minors.  Owner and director, Lynette Shaw, who is herself a recipient of medical marijuana, maintains she was always cognizant of and in compliance with state laws.

A Favorable Ruling for Medical Marijuana Advocates.

Although medical marijuana dispensaries and users had consistently lost in federal court despite the support of local law, the Amendment codified as section 538 of the federal funding bill last year was the persuading factor for a victory for Marin Alliance.  U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer challenged the DOJ’s interpretation of Section 538 of the 2015 Appropriations Act, asserting that the DOJ’s stance “so tortured the plain meaning of the statute.” Judge Breyer further stated “it defies language and logic for the Government to argue that it does not ‘prevent’ California from ‘implementing’ its medical marijuana laws by shutting down these same heavily-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries.”

To read the full order of the court in this case, click here.

The Need for Congruence Between State and Federal Law.

Despite its growing acceptance as a medicinal treatment in 23 states across the nation (and four states legalizing its use for recreational purposes as well), marijuana has yet to be removed from the federal list of restricted drugs.  The looming threat of prosecution by the DEA for using or dispensing medical marijuana, even within compliance of state law, is enough to deter many from seeking its benefits for patients.

Click here to read one of our previous blog posts regarding federal prosecution for medical marijuana treatment.

Comments?

Do you agree with the U.S. District Judge’s ruling?  Why or why not?

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Adler, Jonathan H.  “Court Rules Federal Government May Not Spend Money to Enforce Drug Laws Against Marijuana Dispensaries Legal Under State Law.”  The Washington Post.  20 Oct. 2015.  Web.  9 Nov. 2015.

Ingraham, Christopher.  “Federal Court Tells the DEA to Stop Harassing Medical Marijuana Providers.”  The Washington Post.  20 Oct. 2015.  Web.  9 Nov. 2015.

Phelps, Timothy M.  “Ruling Reins in Justice Department on Medical Pot.”  Orlando Sentinel: A22.  8 Nov. 2015.  Print.  9 Nov. 2015.

Schwartz, Carly.  “Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, California’s Oldest Pot Club, Closes.”  San Francisco.  Huff Post: 22 Dec. 2011.  Web. 9 Nov. 2015.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone (407) 331-6620.


Keywords:
2015 Appropriations Act, Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, medical marijuana, cannabis for medicinal treatment, medical marijuana lawyer, medical marijuana defense attorney, defense lawyer, health lawyer, health law attorney, cannabis for treatment of debilitating medical condition, medical marijuana ordering physician, medical marijuana federal prosecution defense attorney, prescribing controlled substances, DEA defense lawyer, guidelines for federal prosecutors, compassionate-use in Florida, Drug Enforcement Agency physician registration, The Health Law Firm, medical marijuana dispensaries, medical marijuana compliance lawyer, medical marijuana legalization, Section 538 of federal funding bill

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.