As Missouri moves toward implementing the voter-approved medical marijuana program, state officials on Wednesday warned potential patients to hold off on paying for a physician certification until June.
At a public listening session on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus, Kansas City physician Daniel Towle said there’s been confusion surrounding state guidance on physician certifications. That’s even after the state posted a clarification on the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services website.
People who have one of several qualifying medical conditions must be certified by a physician. But that certification cannot be more than 30 days old by the time the state starts accepting patient applications in July.
“The problem with this is we're already seeing a lot of confusion with patients in the community of what the event starts that 30-day clock,” Towle said. “Is it the event of being seen in the office by the physician? Or, as some medical providers are saying, 'Come on in now. I'll see you now and then I'll just wait. And I'll date your certification within the 30-day limit.'”
Lyndall Fraker, who heads the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ medical marijuana unit, said it’s fine if patients and medical providers establish a relationship now. But he advised people to “hold off” on activity related to a certification.
“I think you may have a lot of doctors and clinics already jumping in prematurely,” he said.
It was one of the few questions Fraker directly responded to on Wednesday night, as the established goal of this session was for state officials to consider comments and suggestions as they continue to finalize rules for the medical marijuana program.
Rules and regulations
More than 100 people attended the event, where much of the discussion centered on precisely how many regulations are needed.
Some argued for more regulations to protect children and young people from purchasing — or being tempted to seek out — medical marijuana. Others said too much regulation could lead to lawsuits or a larger black market.
Numerous participants also asked officials to allow licensed growers to share space. They argued that such an arrangement, similar to a traditional farming co-op, would help growers share the burden of creating a secure facility.
Wednesday’s forum was the state’s third, after previous sessions in St. Louis and Poplar Bluff. The final forum is set for Thursday in Springfield.
State officials plan to unveil the final rules for marijuana dispensaries, grow operations and edible manufacturers in June, with licenses expected to be issued by the end of the year.
Already, more than 400 entities have prefiled applications, along with fees totaling more than $3 million. DHSS is declining to make public the names of the people or companies filing the early applications, telling KCUR in an email that it “must maintain the confidentiality of individualized information it receives from applicants.”