ITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Many viewers have told us that they are struggling to get a doctor to certify them to use medical marijuana.
The Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association wanted to remove the guesswork for patients who are interested, so is it listing exactly where they need to go to get a physician’s signature. It recently launched a doctor locator on its website to identify doctors who are willing to help patients with qualifying conditions.
“As an Arkansan, it’s your constitutional right to have safe and legal access to medical cannabis,” Corey Hunt stated.
Hunt knows the challenge first-hand. His original doctor would not certify him to use medical marijuana, though he claims to have one of the conditions allowed under the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment passed by voters in 2016. He ultimately found a different physician who said he qualified and signed his paperwork.
“And I had a real conversation with the new doctor,” Hunt explained. “And she was able to listen to me, and to look at my medical records, and see that I truly have one of these conditions.”
Hunt, who runs the advocacy group Illegally Healed, is also a board member of the ACIA and helped organize the doctor locator. Anyone can put in their address, and the website shows the closest doctor who is open about certifying potential users. Hunt says it has been difficult to get doctors to add their names to the list because many do not understand the new law and are afraid of being associated with medical marijuana.
“It’s not like doctor shopping, like opiates,” he stated. “It’s a doctor certifying that you have one of these conditions, that’s it. They’re not recommending marijuana. The form doesn’t say, ‘I recommend marijuana for my patient.’ It just simply says that this patient has one of these 18 conditions that’s listed on this amendment.”
A doctor in Benton added himself to the registry on Tuesday, becoming just the eighth statewide to do so. Hunt noted, however, that many other doctors are certifying patients, but choose to remain private about their willingness to do so.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health, 284 people have been certified as potential users of medical marijuana, but Hunt believes the doctor locator will help that number rise.
“It’s extremely important to have this resource,” Hunt said, “because you have patients that are going into their primary care physicians, and the doctors don’t want to certify them, and so they need to find a doctor to fill this void.”
Hunt acknowledged that some people are waiting to submit their paperwork, knowing that the state is not ready yet to issue cards. But he urged them to do so sooner than later, to benefit those applying for licenses to grow or sell marijuana.
“It’s really important that patients go out and get certified now, early, so that the industry can see how large this is going to be,” he said.