Although referring physicians and dispensary medical directors will each play distinct roles in Arizona’s MMJ industry, they nonetheless share similar professional risks regarding their activities.
Both must be physicians – that is, a “doctor of medicine who holds a valid and existing license to practice medicine” (which under current rules include similarly credentialed osteopaths, naturopaths and homeopaths).
The range of activities these professionals will engage in includes but is not limited to: patient assessment – or the creation of rating scales for patient self-assessment; recognizing signs and symptoms for substance abuse (for all substances, or just medical marijuana? Current draft rules don’t say); patient caregiver education on potential risks and benefits of the use of medical marijuana for patients under the age of 18; and, the communication of patient usage and symptoms between medical directors and referring physicians.
These activities all require the assumption of some level of responsibility for patient care, either directly (referring physicians) or by way of dispensary personnel (medical directors). Physicians serving the MMJ community would be well-served to have a detailed conversation with their insurance agent about the limits of their medical malpractice policies before beginning to practice in this new arena.