Last Thursday, a new law that improves qualifying patients' access to medical marijuana went into effect. Sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36), SB 5798 expands the list of health care professionals who can authorize the medical use of cannabis under state law. The new list includes all providers who are currently authorized to prescribe medications such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Only two other states, New Mexico and Rhode Island, grant this authorization power to all health care professionals who can prescribe. As Sen. Kohl-Welles explains, "This bill will provide real relief to those who are suffering, particularly those who live in rural areas and low-income individuals who typically see advanced nurse practitioners rather than MDs. Providing this relief honors the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved the medical-marijuana initiative in 1998."
A more detailed explanation of the law, which also includes new requirements for patients' written authorizations, can be found on Page 3 of the Summer 2010 issue of the West Coast Leaf. Also, ACLU of Washington has updated its web page, "A Guide to Washington's Medical Marijuana Law," to reflect the changes. The web page also includes an informational brochure that can be downloaded for printing and a revised form that health care professionals can use for authorizations.