Potential fraud delays medical marijuana applications

More than 4,200 medical marijuana applications have been delayed while the state Department of Health investigates fraudulent physician certification forms.

The forms were received between Sept. 5 and Dec. 5 of this year, the department said.

The inquiry came from the police, who were present in two locations where applicants were being seen by someone other than a physician. Applications received by the department were consistent with this information.

Colorado state law allows only doctors to evaluate patients for the purpose of diagnosing a debilitating medical condition and recommending medical marijuana. Additionally, legislation passed in 2010 further clarified what constitutes a patient-doctor relationship – and that must include a personal physical examination, recordkeeping and an offer of follw-up visits with the physicians.

Registry officials contacted doctors whose names and signatures appeared on the registry certification forms for applicants who were believed to have been seen by someone other than the doctor. Doctors were asked to verify whether or not they had seen specific patients and had signed their certification forms.

For about 2,600 people, the department has received responses from the indentified doctors and reviewed all the relevant information. The health department will notify applicants if their application were accepted, denied or rejected. Denails will be issued with it is clear that the doctor did not see the patient. If it’s unclear whether the doctor saw the applicant, the applications will be rejected.

Those applicants will receive notification from the registry by Dec. 23.

Denied applicants must wait six months from the date of denial before reapplying for the registry. Rejected applicants can resubmit a new application without delay and without the additional application processing fee of $90 through December 29, 2011 or $35 effective December 30, 2011.

The remaining 1,600 delayed applications received between Oct. 14 and Dec. 5 should complete the verification process around the first of the year, with notification of application status to those patients by the end of January.

“We recognize many applicants have been impacted by the extended verification process, but the investigation was necessary to maintain the integrity of the Medical Marijuana Registry,” said Dr. Chris Urbina, executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “The enabling legislation requires physicians to verify a patient has one of the qualifying debilitating medical conditions to receive medical marijuana – and the legislation also requires personal, physical medical exams. The department has the responsibility to deny applications that don’t meet those criteria.”