New Arizona law tightens regulations for medical marijuana

PHOENIX - Naturopathic doctors will face tighter regulations for recommending medical marijuana under a bill Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law Friday.

The legislation requires naturopathic doctors to include medical evidence that supports their diagnosis for issuing a medical marijuana certificate. It also requires them to include in the medical record a written certificate and the patient's profile on the controlled substance prescription monitoring database.

Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, sponsored the provision as a means to increase accountability for naturopaths issuing medical marijuana certificates. Yee said she met with groups such as the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association to draft the measure based on a 2014 Auditor General report.

That report suggested tighter restrictions after finding the naturopathic board's procedures did not ensure all patient applications met the necessary requirements.

Between July 2013 and June 2014, naturopathic doctors issued 77 percent of all medical marijuana certifications, according to the most recent data from a Department of Health Services report.

More than 68,000 Arizona residents have medical marijuana cards, according to a DHS report from February.

The executive director for the state's Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board did not return calls after multiple attempts for comment.

Dr. Elaine Burns, medical director of the Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Center, said she was surprised there was a need for the legislation because her office already requires doctors to include the information outlined in the bill.

"I'm just really surprised that my colleagues out there were not really keeping records," Burns said, "Not only does it make the industry look bad, it makes naturopathic physicians look bad."

Burns also said the law requires doctors to sign a medical marijuana certificate indicating they've reviewed the patient's medical records in the last 12 months and checked the controlled substance database.

But Burns said her center does receive patients who are surprised the rules are so strict. She said doctors occasionally hear patients say that other offices they've visited didn't require the same documentation.

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