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Medical marijuana program secrecy is essential, secretary of health says

August 9, 2010

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By Marjorie Childress 8/9/10 3:51 PM

New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil responded today to a story in the Albuquerque Journal that questioned why the state does not disclose publicly the identities of physicians who certify medical marijuana patients. Vigil says the state has to protect the safety of the participants in the program given that the drug is still illegal under federal law.

In a piece that said the program was “shrouded in secrecy,” Journal writer Thom Cole argued that the secrecy prevents the public from finding out if there are problems with the program. Cole referred to Colorado, in which a just a few doctors provide most of the certifications in the state. One doctor was found to have signed 200 certifications in one day. Another, who charges $125 per consultation, was recently arrested on suspicion that he gave false information to the state.

But if just a handful of doctors are providing certifications in New Mexico, it’s impossible to find out due to the rules, said Cole:

So, does New Mexico, like Colorado, have a few doctors who account for a large percentage of the patient certifications for the marijuana program?

Who knows?

The state Health Department refused a request to provide documents that would show the names of certifying doctors and the number of times each doctor had provided a patient certification.

In a strongly worded response today, Vigil said  that the newspaper shouldn’t set itself up to police physicians, especially given that the drug is still illegal under federal law:

The reporter and editors apparently doesn’t trust the New Mexico Medical Board to perform its responsibility of monitoring the work of the state’s physicians and have decided to take the job on themselves. After all, who better to police physicians than opinionated newspaper columnists and editors?

…The Journal neglected to mention the biggest challenge we face in operating a medical cannabis program under state law. Marijuana use is illegal under federal law. … We already have many physicians who are too worried about a potential negative impact on their practice to certify patients. …

The Journal wants to see if there are a few physicians who are certifying many patients. What’s too many? Who decides — the Journal?

 See original posting:

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