State offers explanation for denied MMJ applications

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Today, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a statement regarding the applications currently on hold.

"Approximately 2,600 applications received between Sept. 5 and Oct. 14 initially were delayed, followed by another approximately 1,600 applications received between Oct. 15 and Dec. 5," says the department. "Law enforcement representatives had been present in two locations where applicants were being seen by someone other than a physician. Applications received by the department were consistent with this information."

The amendment to the Colorado Constitution passed by the voters in 2000, which established the registry, allows only physicians to evaluate patients for the purpose of diagnosing a debilitating medical condition and recommending medical marijuana. Additionally, legislation passed in 2010 provided further clarifying language about what constitutes a bona fide patient-physician relationship for purposes of the registry. The 2010 language established that the patient-physician relationship must include a personal physical examination, recordkeeping and an offer of follow up appointments with the physician. Consequently, an applicant who sees a non-physician does not meet the legal requirements of the registry.

Due to concerns about potential fraud, registry officials contacted the physicians whose names and signatures appeared on the registry certification forms for applicants who were believed to have been seen by someone other than the physician. The physicians were asked to verify whether or not they had seen specific patients and had signed their certification forms.

For the initial group of 2,600, the department has received responses from the identified physicians and reviewed all of the relevant information — and based on that information will notify applicants whether their applications were accepted, denied or rejected. Denials of applications will be issued when the totality of the information indicates the physician did not see the patient. If it is unclear if the physician or some other individual saw the applicant, the application will be rejected. Applicants in the original group of 2,600 applications should receive notification from the registry by Dec. 23.

Denied applicants must wait six months from the date of denial before reapplying for the registry. Rejected applicants can resubmit a new application without delay and without the additional application processing fee of $90 through December 29, 2011 or $35 effective December 30, 2011.

The remaining 1,600 delayed applications received between Oct. 14 and Dec. 5 should complete the verification process around the first of the year, with notification of application status to those patients by the end of January.

Dr. Chris Urbina, executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said, “We recognize many applicants have been impacted by the extended verification process, but the investigation was necessary to maintain the integrity of the Medical Marijuana Registry. The enabling legislation requires physicians to verify a patient has one of the qualifying debilitating medical conditions to receive medical marijuana — and the legislation also requires personal, physical medical exams. The department has the responsibility to deny applications that don’t meet those criteria.”

Urbina further commented, “The exposure of this fraud should lead marijuana registry applicants to take care to ensure that they are seen and examined by a physician if they intend to apply to the medical marijuana registry.”

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