Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 13 / 29 March 2018

Bay Area Cannasseur: CA medical board may change pot regs for patients


Dr. Perry Solomon is chief medical officer of Photo: Courtesy
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Just before the cannabis floodgates are about to open in California with sales for adult recreational use expected to start in January, the state medical board has suggested guidelines for physicians that would, if adopted, make it more difficult for some medical marijuana patients to obtain their medicine.

The proposal, a draft of which was published last month by the Medical Board of California, the organization that licenses physicians, would advise medical doctors that patients seeking a physician's approval to use cannabis must have a physical examination before they are recommended for treatment with cannabis. Currently, a physical exam is not required.

The board proposal, if enacted, would not affect the majority of patients who will be able to purchase it legally beginning January 1, thanks to passage of Proposition 64 last year. Prop 64 legalizes the recreational use of cannabis by adults aged 21 and over. For the past 20 years, only those residents with medical approval could legally buy cannabis, following the passage of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, in 1996.

So while a medical card will mostly become a relic of the past – since it will no longer be needed to make a legal purchase – some patients may choose to continue going through the process of obtaining their card, in large part to save on taxes that will be tacked on to purchases of cannabis.

The medical board proposal prompted a prominent medical cannabis executive to ask the public to protest.

Dr. Perry Solomon, chief medical officer at San Francisco-based, a large online medical cannabis community, said in a statement August 28 that the proposal would "drastically limit access to physicians for medical cannabis patients."

The board, which met August 30 to discuss the proposal to amend its rules on physicians' role in recommending cannabis, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

In his letter to members of HelloMD, Solomon, a board-certified anesthesiologist, said, "Telehealth – connecting doctors and patients over live video – is now a mainstream part of the American health care system supported in law by over 30 states.

"Telehealth lowers costs, and increases access to doctors, particularly for patients that might otherwise not have such access, whether due to mobility issues, unable to obtain transportation, being house bound, uncomfortable visiting doctors in undesirable areas, high predatory pricing, privacy issues, etc.

"Since 2014 the availability of telehealth for cannabis consultations made this access available to all Californians, no matter where they live," said Solomon's letter.

"The medical board is now proposing to take all that away and make physical exams mandatory for cannabis consultations; thus denying Californians their right to access of care and stepping backward in time," he added.

Solomon asked California medical patients to "make their voice heard" by contacting the medical board ( to protest its proposal.

In a telephone interview with the Bay Area Reporter, Solomon, 63, talked about the issue.

Because the use of cannabis has been documented to be useful as an "exit drug" to curb the use of opioids, the medical board proposal could, in effect, "increase the opioid crisis," he said.

In the past several years, HelloMD has facilitated recommendations for some 75,000 medical cannabis patients, he said.

If the draft proposal were approved by the medical board, physicians who offered patients recommendations online could theoretically be "brought up on charges of unprofessional conduct" by the oversight body, he said.

Two other states that allow medical cannabis – Maine and New York – also permit patients to use telehealth to obtain recommendations, he said, adding that the other 30 states that permit medical marijuana do not.

"We hope California can lead the way," Solomon said, in increasing access to care. He said that HelloMD is now operating in New York and is hoping to expand nationwide.

Solomon also said that it is possible that under California's new law enabling adult recreational use, some high potency drugs may only be available to medical patients.

"That is unclear right now," he said, noting that many of the rules and regulations governing adult use are still being ironed out.

As the telehealth part of its business becomes a smaller part of its revenue stream, HelloMD plans to expand into other areas.

Currently, it has an extensive website with information on a wide range of subjects, including many products.

In a telephone interview with the B.A.R., co-CEO Pamela Hadfield hinted at what lies ahead.

From the very beginning, said Hadfield, "we never saw physician recommendations as being the core of our business."

Rather, "we believe that a community to connect people looking for solutions can be an effective tool for health and wellness," she explained.

HelloMD soon expects to introduce a new website, Hadfield added.

"I cannot reveal the specifics just yet, but the trajectory we are on will put us at the intersection of Amazon and Facebook," she said.


Bay Area Cannasseur runs the first Thursday of the month. To send column ideas or tips, email Sari Staver at



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