Cannabizness: Bill to Expand Rolls of Maryland Med-Pot Certifiers, Explained

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 25, 2019

Just out is the Maryland Department of Legislative Services “fiscal and policy note” for this session’s House Bill 18 18 (HB 18) to expand the list of licensed professionals allowed to certify patients for the Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission (MCC) program. In it, policy analyst Kathleen Kennedy – fresh from giving the treatment to HB 17, proposing cannibis for opiate-addiction treatment – explains how the measure would include physical therapists, psychologists, and physician assistants in the MCC’s administration of the state’s legal-weed regime.

Currently, physicians, dentists, podiatrists, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives undergo MCC registration so that they can assess patients’ medical conditions and deem them qualified for medical cannibis, and as of Jan. 9 there were 1,243 of them. HB 18, as Kennedy’s note explains, would add physical therapists, psychologists, and physicians assistants to the rolls, while adding representatives of those professions to the mix of the MCC’s roster.

To become a certifying provider under HB 18, an active, in-good-standing license would be required of physical therapists, psychologists, and physicians assistants, the note continues, and the latter must also have “an active delegation agreement with a physician who is a certifying provider.” While current certifying providers must have a Maryland controlled dangerous substances (CDS) registration, members of the proposed professions would not have to meet this requirement, though, as the note points out, “physician assistants can prescribe CDS under the CDS registration of their delegating physician.”

HB 18 is one of three bills sponsored this session by Baltimore City state Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-45th District), a leader in creating and reforming the MCC, that would expand the scope of Maryland’s medical cannabis program.

Cannabizness: Analyst explains Maryland bill to allow opioid sufferers access to legal weed

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 24, 2019

Maryland’s opioid-related death rate is more than twice the national average, a morbid background to a bill before the Maryland General Assembly this session, House Bill 33 (HB 33), that would allow those suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) to qualify for the state’s medical-marijuana program.

Much of Department of Legislative Services policy analyst Kathleen Kennedy’s just-published note on HB 33 is dedicated to explaining Maryland’s opioid epidemic, and policy responses to it, while summarizing the recent report by Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission (MCC) that cast a seemingly skeptical eye on the proposal.

Last year, the House Health and Government Operations Committee (which has scheduled a hearing on HB 33 at 2pm on Jan. 29) voted down the measure, while the Senate version languished after a Finance Committee hearing. This year, now that Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York have blazed the trail for allowing legal weed to help treat OUD, the bill’s sponsor, Baltimore City state Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-45th District), is trying again.

While our mid-Atlantic neighbors to the north are giving pot-for-OUD a try-out, three other states – Hawaii, Maine, and New Mexico – passed legislation only to see it vetoed by their governors “following significant pressure from health care providers, health care organizations, and addiction specialists,” Kennedy writes. Her note also points out that the federal cannabis ban is frustrating “a significant need for high-quality clinical research” on the use of legal weed to treat OUD – a point that is made in many corners on this issue.

(For those interested in reading an apologist’s first-hand account of how weed helps in opiate recovery, try this, by Elizabeth Brico in The Fix.)

Questions about how medical cannibis fits into society’s addiction-management rubric are likely to continue. What’s on the horizon? Hop Chronic, a THC-laced non-alcoholic beer produced by Flying Dog Brewery and Green Leaf Medical, both based in Frederick, Md., is set to be released this year, assuming the laws and regulations are in place to allow it, and “Will it help or hurt if you’re a teetotaler?” is a question sure to prompt lively discussions.