Legislators Are Trying to Restrict MMJ Telemedicine in Arkansas

Mar, 2021
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Please Note: In accordance with Arkansas state law, we, unfortunately, have suspended all AR telehealth appointments until further notice.

Qualified medical marijuana patients in Arkansas need access to their medicine. Not only do they need it for their health and well-being … they have a legal right to it. Fortunately, Arkansas medical cannabis was ushered in by a voter-led initiative in 2016. But some lawmakers don’t like voter-led initiatives—which is why they need to be protected. Currently, MMJ patient rights in Arkansas need to be protected. Because legislators are trying to restrict MMJ telemedicine, which has been a safe, effective, and convenient alternative during COVID.

While the current constitution requires an in-person visit for a patient’s first consultation, an emergency COVID-19 order has allowed telemedicine for medical cannabis doctor certifications.

In response to the bill, the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association (ACIA) is pushing for a bill that would allow telemedicine for renewal appointments.

You can count on Elevate Holistics to ALWAYS speak out when lawmakers attempt to restrict patient access to legal medical marijuana.

Why Telemedicine Is Important for MMJ Patients

There has always been a considerable portion of the population that is alienated from medical care—either they can not get to medical care, or medical care cannot get to them. Many of these patients are often those who benefit most from medical cannabis.

Only recently—due to the coronavirus pandemic—the benefits of telemedicine have become widely understood and accepted. Telehealth visits have revolutionized quality of life and access to healthcare for all kinds of patients—for the better. Televisits with virtual clinics relieve the burden of leaving the house for those with disabilities or unpredictable symptoms. A patient may wait several weeks for a doctor appointment, only to wake up that day not well enough to go.

In Arkansas, there is a huge rural population and an increasing aging population. The undue burden of making the trip to a distant physician is absurd when it can be done through a virtual visit with the doctor.

Arkansas Lawmakers Want to Deny Telehealth for Medical Cannabis

One of the greatest barriers to telemedicine is legislators. In Arkansas, House Bill 1566, led by Rep. Delia Haak (R), would amend the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 to modify the definition of “Written Certification”.            

As you probably know, MMJ patients in Arkansas need written certification from a physician to apply for medical cannabis.

One of the changes specified in HB1566 is, “A physician shall not issue a written certificate to a patient based on an assessment performed through telemedicine.”

Certain Arkansas legislators want to restrict patient access to medicinal marijuana. Even if it means exposing compromised patients to coronavirus and putting undue burden and stress on the elderly and people with disabilities or who suffer from medical conditions.

Additional Burden on Rural Arkansas Patients

The bill also requires the that a patient see a psychiatrist or a neurologist for any mental illness, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Alzheimer’s disease. Because these health professionals tend to be located in Little Rock or near the university, this would add undue stress and burden on all patients suffering from these ailments that live in rural areas.

Denying Telemedicine is Denying Patients Access

We already know that telehealth and online doctor clinics work for cannabis patients. These patients already have unnecessary hoops to jump through when applying for medical cannabis that traditional medicine does not require. Forcing patients, by law, to take on added stress and burden is unethical and goes against the purpose of both healthcare and legalized medical cannabis.

Of course, lawmakers will argue that it is for the safety of patients that they are requiring in-person visits. But why is that safety only significant in instances of MMJ physician visits? Do other physicians not prescribe medications with way more dangerous side effects every day? Will there be restrictions on telemedicine with these doctors?

It’s obvious that this is a maneuver motivated by outdated fears and negative perceptions of cannabis. In 2016, the people of Arkansas spoke—marijuana is medicine and patients shall have legal access to it. So why are legislators taking it upon themselves to restrict what the people who hired them already voted for?

Let’s not let people in office limit what so many advocates worked hard to enact. That’s not what we hired them to do.

Elevate Holistics Is with the Cannabis Community

Cannabis patients’ voices aren’t being represented in the Arkansas legislature. Elevate Holistics urges everyone to contact their senators and representatives and make them understand that this move to limit medical marijuana access is not the will of the people. And we will continue to speak out on behalf of all cannabis patients and advocates.

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