Health department no longer registering excess doses for medical marijuana patients

Thousands of applications registered each month

DENVER - The CALL7 Investigators have learned the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is putting medical marijuana users, their doctors, and local law enforcement on notice that it can no longer be used to help justify high dose applications that allow growing of extra marijuana.

CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia found no one tracks where much of that marijuana is going, or how it's being used.

The CDPHE enters those so-called "excess dose" applications, which must be signed by a doctor, into a state registry. That gives users legal cover in the event they're questioned about how much marijuana they are growing. But now the department is changing its policy.

Read letter from CDPHE to doctors advising of policy changes:

"The caregiver has to demonstrate significant responsibility for managing the well-being of the patient," said Larry Wolk, Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environments. But he said many of the applications signed by doctors simply don't meet that bar.

"It's insulting. And it's, in my opinion, it at least borders on malpractice," Wolk said.

Documents obtained by the CALL7 Investigators show caretakers have responded to that requirement with simplistic explanations including:

"Any and all services required by the patient."

"Grow and deliver edibles and oils for pain."

"I provide unique and quality strains that benefit the patient's needs. I provide the transportation of medicine to the patient. All medicine is properly tested before given to the patient."

"Having just met [REDACTED] I believe I can be a very positive influence in his life!"

Wolk said between 2,000 and 3,000 applications for "excess doses" come into the CDPHE each month. By law, the department does not approve or reject them, or enforce them, but only enters them in the state registry.

"And who is checking this?" Ferrugia asked Wolk.

"No one," Wolk said. "We don't have the regulatory authority or the resources to track where that's going."

State statue allows six plants and 2 ounces of medical marijuana for specific conditions, including pain, nausea, and lack of appetite in patients who have cancer or AIDS. But there is no specific regulation or requirement for approval of "excess doses," other than an undefined "medical necessity."

Wolk says there is not sufficient research to establish that definition.

"No bona fide research out there that demonstrates increased amounts of marijuana are required or medically necessary for those conditions or any other condition," he said.

The Colorado Department of Revenue regulates legitimate medical dispensaries, tracking their products and tax payments. But Wolk said that's not true for individuals and so-called "caregivers."

"There's really no checking or oversight with regard to this excess dose piece. It's somewhat of a loophole," Wolk said.

That's why Wolk is notifying doctors, the Department of Revenue, and law enforcement that the CDPHE will no longer register excess doses. That means, if a person is caught growing excess amounts of marijuana, it's up to their doctor alone to justify it.

"They can no longer use the Department of Public Health as their defense for medical necessary," Wolk said, "they're on their own."

Wolk said he hopes the policy change will force Colorado's Medical Board to develop specific guidelines defining medical necessity, which would help law enforcement determine whether large marijuana grows are for legitimate medical needs, or simply to avoid prosecution.

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