A Florida House panel unanimously signed off on a proposal that would allow doctors to renew patients’ medical-marijuana approvals using telehealth.
Bill sponsor Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, told the House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee that the bill (HB 387) would “treat this (medical marijuana) like any other medicine.”
More than 2,500 doctors have undergone training that allows them to order medical marijuana for patients. Voters approved a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly authorized medical marijuana, and nearly 800,000 patients have been certified for the treatment. Under current law, doctors must conduct a physical examination of a patient “while physically present in the same room as the patient” before ordering marijuana.
Gov. Ron DeSantis temporarily suspended the face-to-face requirement because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but only for patients who were renewing medical-marijuana certifications with the same doctors they had seen previously.
The executive order expired in mid-2021, but some practitioners are frustrated about doctors who continue to use telehealth for recertifications and even initial visits. Barry Gordon, a Venice-based physician who specializes in medical-marijuana care, told the House panel that using telehealth for recertifications would benefit some of the sickest Floridians.
“It’s a cost-savings for patients, it’s safe for patients, and it’s critical,” Gordon said. “You have to remember that our patients are sometimes the most debilitated and weakest of the patients here in Florida.”
The measure also would allow the Department of Health to suspend a physician from being able to order medical marijuana for up to two years if he or she “provides, advertises or markets telehealth services prior to July 1, 2023.”
Currently, the state agency must direct complaints about medical-marijuana doctors to its Division of Medical Quality Assurance, which Roach said “is a long process.”
The change “would add a necessary and immediate tool to help the department when physicians break the rules,” he added. Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, has filed a similar bill for consideration during the 60-day legislative session that began Tuesday.