Marijuana advocates say Colorado’s medical policy hurts patients

Photo: Denver medical marijuana dispensary, Denver Relief, Kayvan Khalatbari (AP Photo)
In this August 2014 photo, marijuana store Denver Relief co-owner Kayvan Khalatbari, right, talks with his employee Jeff Botkin his medical and recreational marijuana shop in Denver.

Pot advocates are worried that new enforcement of a state policy on medical marijuana will discourage doctors from prescribing and make access for new patients a lot harder.

Under the policy, doctors who write more than 3,500 recommendations for pot in a year will be referred to the Heath Board for discipline.

"I think that this policy is really unfair for those doctors that are brave and are willing to step forward and say, ‘yes, cannabis is a medicine and we’re going to give patients access to that," said Teri Robnett, a medical marijuana patient and advocate.

Most doctors don’t recommend pot -- so she says this will only hinder those that do.

But Larry Wolk, who runs the state health department, defended the more vigorous enforcement of the policy. He says they looked at studies of average patient workload before deciding on a cut off.

"So these aren’t things that we just made up or that are anecdotal, these are criteria based on evidence," Wolk explained.

A withering state audit two years ago found only 12 doctors had handed out about 50,000 pot recommendations.

Wolk says they’ll also keep an eye on doctors who recommend pot for young people with chronic conditions.

"Too high a proportion of patients that they’re recommending for pain at very young ages then that would be criteria for investigation,"

Patient advocate Teri Robnet says state agencies clearly worked together on this policy.

"But they have not been vetted through the physicians that are actually out in the community working with these patients and writing recommendations." Robnet said. "Their voices need to be included."

Now, those doctors who fall outside these guidelines could lose their licenses to practice.