Medical Marijuana in Michigan-Doctor's Approval?
January 20, 2015 6:55 AM   Subscribe

I am just beginning to research the various steps required to get a card for Medical Marijuana in Michigan, at my husband's request, and I'm all confused and a little bit nervous... Hub was dx'd with Ankylosing Spondilitis in 1997. He's been taking NSAIDS since that time, and then around 2003-ish Oxycontin was added to his list of Rxs. In the past two years, though, it's not been his back that pains him but his hands.

They ache at work (he's a writer, so he's on the computer a lot) and at rest (the pain wakes him up when he's trying to sleep). His new rheumatologist (original rheumy passed away in 2009) prescribed Voltaren gel and a stronger strength of Oxycontin. Rheumy's overall attitude was, at first, "ankylosing spondylitis shouldn't cause pain in the hands and fingers...." but Husband's sed rate was so elevated at subsequent blood work testings that Rheumy eventually decided that Rheumatoid Arthritis was the culprit.

Back when medical marijuana was first put on the Michigan ballot, I brought the subject up during a routine exam in casual conversation. Rheumy (a very conservative man in his early 70s) made it clear that he was against it. I never mentioned weed again. But a little over a year ago my husband came home from watching a baseball game at a neighbor's house and he was all smiles. Neighbor had shared some pot (which husband hadn't smoked since his college days), and hub couldn't stop telling me about how his hands didn't hurt! He's since purchased a bit of the herb from neighbor now and then, and I've seen firsthand how he can sit and watch TV without unconsciously constantly moving his hands around, trying to find a comfortable resting position, after a couple of tokes. He also doesn't need to take Oxycontin when his has weed available, which is a good thing (IMHO).

So now he'd like to get a Marijuana card, and as I navigate my way through the multiple online sites, I see variously that medical records are required and also the approval of the attending physician.... But some sites seem to advertise that X clinic has a doctor that will approve if you have the appropriate records.... It's very confusing, and my main concern is that if Dr. Rheumy's approval is necessary, well, it ain't gonna happen. At husband's most recent appointment (2 weeks ago) Rheumy prescribed Enbrel for his arthritis, which is not only extremely expensive, but also has to be administered via injection. After each appointment, we are provided with a printout of what tests were ordered, medicines prescribed, all that sort of thing. Would a year's worth of these printouts serve as "medical records" when applying for a marijuana card? Or is more extensive information (having the rheumy's office fax his files) necessary? Does husband's rheumatologist have to ultimately approve the request (as the "attending physician"), or is that something the clinic's doctor will do? (FWIW Arthritis isn't on the list of immediately approved conditions for marijuana in Michigan, but "chronic pain" is.)

If anyone has successfully negotiated the steps to getting a medical MJ card, I'd appreciate any advice as to exactly it is done.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (4 answers total)
I'm pretty sure that the office is required to give your husband a copy of his records on request. He does not have to state a reason, if he is worried about discrimination based on treatment sought. There may be a "copy fee."

Even if you go to a different doctor to get a prescription, your husband really, really should tell his regular doctor which drugs he is taking and which ones he isn't (say, if he stops taking Oxy). Keeping this a secret is a bad idea IMO. It seems to me like shopping for a different rheumatologist is the better approach.
posted by muddgirl at 7:38 AM on January 20, 2015

HIPAA stipulates that ones health records must be "portable," meaning that muddgirl is correct -- your husband can request and receive a copy of his medical records and may only be charged a modest copying fee, if anything.

That said, FWIW I am totally on board with the use of medical marijuana for managing chronic pain, but I strongly recommend giving Enbrel a shot (pun intended). Marijuana and oxycontin manage pain, but Enbrel works by reducing the inflammation that causes the pain. When the inflammation is reduced, the pain is lessened, but more importantly, damage is averted and longterm function is preserved.
posted by telegraph at 10:08 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

The copying fee may not be so modest; when I wanted to get my records from my eye doctor, the fee was $5.00 a page, my file was over 1,000 pages, and they told me they wouldn't do just part of the file. So, it will vary from doctor to doctor. But yes, they do have to give it to you. And they will send it to another doctor without charging you.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:12 PM on January 20, 2015

You might want to get a second or third opinion from other rheumatologists. Embrel would be good to continue per telegraph's comment.

Where are you in Michigan? In the lower peninsula, especially around the more populated areas (Ann Arbor for sure, Detroit & Kalamazoo as well) it seems there are a ton of clinics where you can get your card. I'd be surprised if you couldn't find a rheumatologist in one of these areas that would be willing to discuss it as an option - but I say that without having tried it. Still, there are a LOT of clinics down this way, and to be kind of honest, anecdotally they don't seem that picky in who they give a license to.
posted by RogueTech at 10:35 PM on January 20, 2015

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