Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 1, 2013

Significant changes to medical-marijuana law kick in today

LANSING — LANSING (AP) — Some of the first significant changes to Michigan’s medical-marijuana law kick in today, including extending the one-year registry cards to two years and setting rules for the doctor-patient relationship for medical-marijuana users.

Voters endorsed the use of medical marijuana in 2008 to alleviate side effects of certain illnesses, such as cancer or chronic pain. But lawmakers said the law left too much open to interpretation and pushed through bipartisan measures at the end of last session designed to clarify the act. One of the biggest changes defines the type of doctor-patient relationship needed before medical marijuana use can be certified.

Democratic Rep. Phil Cavanagh of Redford Township in Wayne County, who sponsored one of the bills, said lawmakers had concerns that the certificates were given out too liberally, like over the phone or Internet.

But starting today, doctors must complete face-to-face medical evaluations of patients, review their relevant medical records, and assess their medical condition and history. The amendments also require follow-up with patients after providing the certification to see whether the use of medical marijuana to treat the illness is working.

Cavanagh said this prevents “some out-of-state doctor from coming in, renting a hotel room, writing these things and then leaving town.”

“Now we are saying: ‘What’s behind that card? Where did you get certified? Who was your doctor?’” said Michael Komorn, a Michigan attorney who specializes in medical-marijuana law. He said the new standards will benefit patients and doctors by outlining what is expected throughout the certification process.

Among other changes that begin today — after the bills received the 75 percent approval in December needed to amend voter-approved laws — is that state-issued cards given to people who have a doctor’s endorsement will be good for two years instead of one. Applicants also must show proof of residence, like a driver’s license or state ID, to get the $100 cards.

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