Montana Board Bans Video Exams for Medical Marijuana

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The Montana Board of Medical Examiners says Internet-based video examinations for people seeking approval to use medical marijuana don’t meet the board’s standards.

The board on Friday said medical doctors must conduct hands-on physical examinations before signing off on someone receiving medical marijuana.

“Initiating a new treatment for a chronic condition requires a physical examination, period,” Dr. Dean Center, a board member based in Bozeman, told the Independent Record.

Medical marijuana providers in the state have been connecting doctors with those seeking medical marijuana using the web video service Skype.

“The exclusive use of teleconference methods to certify individuals does not meet this level of standard of care,” the board said in a new addendum to a position paper first released in May.

The Montana Caregivers Network, based in Missoula, contends the video examinations are needed for people whose regular physician won’t recommend medical marijuana and who can’t travel.

There were more than 23,600 medical marijuana patients in the state as of September, served by more than 4,400 caregivers, according to the state.

Doctors who continue to use video examinations could be subject to disciplinary action, the board said. However, the board doesn’t seek out doctors for discipline, but will investigate complaints about substandard care.

Jean Branscum, the board’s executive director, said that in many cases it’s not possible to tell who certified the patient to receive medical marijuana, so complaints aren’t filed.

Montana Caregivers Network advertises “TeleClinics.” On it’s website, it says, “Visit the Doctor from anywhere! Got a computer? You can visit the Doctor, online, and get your green card. Doctors are available all day long, every day!”

Besides the move by the board, state lawmakers are also likely to take action in the approaching session. A legislative panel last summer recommended eliminating video consultations as well as traveling clinics, where large numbers of patients have received permission to used medical marijuana after short consultations.