Alabama Officials Propose Rules For Medical Marijuana Access For Patients In Healthcare Facilities

Alabama Officials Propose Rules For Medical Marijuana Access For Patients In Healthcare Facilities

“We still need to consider the caregiver being allowed to administer the product on the premises, but I don’t know how that’s going to be worded.”

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) approved a set of rules Thursday for public comment to safeguard patients’ access to medical cannabis while they are in a medical facility.

The proposed rules would ease licensing requirements for “professional caregivers,” or someone “whose career is to assist another person in a way that enables them to live as independently as possible,” according to the current AMCC rules, by applying the same requirements for a caregiver who might be a relative.

“We certainly want to look at identifying what the issue or issues may be, and then figure out how we can address that either through the rules, or through potential legislation, if that’s what it requires,” said Justin Aday, general counsel for the commission.

The proposed rules would remove requirements such as passing a screening test from the Alabama Medicaid Agency in collaboration with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Alabama Department of Senior Services, certification by the American Caregiver Association or employment as a nurse, therapist or other health care provider by a hospital, long-term care facility or hospice program.

Aday said there could be other gaps that may need to be addressed, such as whether patients would be allowed to bring medical cannabis into a facility. The commission will have to continue to work on those issues, he said, either through new rules or legislation.

“I think that we will definitely need to take the opportunity to work with various stakeholders in this to look for a solution for when these coverage in care gaps may arise based on this, and ultimately, it’s probably going to require some legislative action at some point,” Aday said.

Sam Blakemore, vice chair of the commission and a pharmacist, said bringing medical cannabis into a medical facility is a concern he heard when speaking with other pharmacists. Because it’s classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, he said that administering medical cannabis in a medical setting will create a “whole set of new issues.”

“We still need to consider the caregiver being allowed to administer the product on the premises, but I don’t know how that’s going to be worded,” he said.

Dr. William Saliski Jr., a member of the commission, said that they will eventually have to look at approving a caregiver to administer medical cannabis in a medical facility in a “different way.”

“It’s going to take on a different look, if you will, and we’re going to have to prepare for that, so I absolutely agree that this has to be reevaluated,” Saliski said.

Professional caregivers would have the same requirements as a caregiver. They must register with the commission and be issued a valid medical cannabis card by the commission. They must be at least 21 years old or the parent or legal guardian of a registered qualified patient. They must also be the patient’s parent, legal guardian, grandparent, spouse or an individual with a valid power of attorney for health care of a registered qualified patient.

Aday said that having qualified caregivers administering medical cannabis who have ties to a facility “makes sense.” While that was the intent of the rule, he thinks the current statute “doesn’t quite get us there yet.”

“We’ve got to resolve the conflict now, and then get to work on a solution that may bring us back here, but it’s probably if it brings us back here. It’s going to have to be in conjunction with some legislation probably at a minimum,” he said.

Litigation against the commission over license awards last year is still pending before state courts. Lawsuits appealed to the Court of Civil Appeals, including Verano’s, which claimed the commission did not have the authority to issue its own stay on licenses, is currently paused.

Lawsuits at the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals are paused, with the court indicating it will wait for a ruling from Montgomery Circuit Judge James Anderson on two motions to dismiss the lawsuits, one from the commission and another from a company who won a license. Anderson’s ruling would come on April 15, at the earliest, giving plaintiffs and defendants two weeks each to file briefs.

This story was first published by Alabama Reflector.

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Photo courtesy of Kimzy Nanney.

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