Medical Cannabis Certification Course FAQ

Is there a resource that provides a brief overview of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania for my staff or patients that have questions?

In addition to the detailed information on the PA Dept of Health Office of Medical Marijuana (OMM) web site, an eight-minute slide show/video was posted on YouTube by the DOH in November 2017.

I want education on medical cannabis but I’m not a licensed healthcare professional. Can I still take the Certification Course? Are your trainings only for Pennsylvania residents or providers?

The course is open to anyone who would benefit, and you are not required to be a healthcare professional, or to be a PA resident. Pharmacy technicians, allied healthcare professionals, office managers, and people seeking customer service positions in dispensaries have taken the course and found it helpful to their knowledge base and career aspirations. However, the information is targeted to licensed medical professionals and pharmacists, so expect an advanced level of clinical content and terminology.

All healthcare professionals will benefit from learning about medical cannabis. The majority of the certification course clinical content is appropriate for healthcare professionals residing anywhere in the U.S, as is the content on the federal regulatory landscape.

The certification course reviews registration requirements, qualifying disease states, and regulations for dispensing and recommending that are specific to the Pennsylvania program. Attendees from other states are welcome, however. If your state requires medical cannabis education, but not a specific state-approved course, you are welcome to check with your state board to see if our course meets their requirements for educational hours. The Advanced Cannabis: Dosing & Dispensing course, and other medical cannabis programming generally covers information applicable to medical cannabis programs nationwide.

To register in the PA Medical Marijuana program as a practitioner, or medical professional, you must have a current, valid, license in PA

After I take the Certification Course, and you submit my certificate of completion to the PA DOH Office of Medical Marijuana, do I have to do anything else to be approved as a practitioner or medical professional?

Yes, if you are a PA state-licensed physician seeking to make patient recommendations for the PA program, then you still need to register with the program and be approved as a practitioner. You can register before or after attending the certification course. There is a vetting process that can take several weeks or longer once you’ve registered. The program will email you when you are approved. When approved, after you log-in to your account, you’ll see that you can now access the online form for certifying patients. If you registered as a practitioner or medical professional, attended one of our trainings, and haven’t heard back from the DOH about approval after several weeks or months, please contact us, we’ll help!

Medical professionals who desire employment in a dispensary, do not have to register with PA’s program until after they are hired  (the registration form requires entering your dispensary employers’ address.)

If I register as a PA practitioner (to make recommendations for patients), will my name be listed on the state’s web site?

Once you are approved by the DOH as a practitioner, your name, medical specialty/credentials, and office address will normally be listed on the DOH’s public list of approved practitioners unless you “opt-out” from the public-facing list, in which case your name & office address will only be included on a list viewable just by registered patients and caregivers, not the general public.  The list is updated once or twice a month and can be downloaded from the Office of Medical Marijuana web site. 

I want to take the certification course, but I’m not sure if I want to participate in the PA Medical Marijuana program as a practitioner or medical professional. Do I have to decide first?

No. Physicians can wait to register with the PA Office of Medical Marijuana, until after attending a training, if you are unsure whether you want to be a practitioner in the program. And, if you decide you do not want to be in the program, but are already registered, you can ask us to not submit your certificate of completion to the DOH yet.  

Medical professionals who desire employment in a dispensary, do not have to register in PA, until after they are hired  (the registration form has a field for the dispensary employers’ address.) We will submit your certificate of completion to the DOH for their records at the time of your training, and you can show your certificate to employers when interviewing.

What should I include in my patient’s healthcare record about my assessment and recommendation?

PA Ch. 1181,28.(b)3 states that practitioners must “File a copy of the patient certification in the patient's health care record.”

The Federation of State Medical Boards guidelines provide the following recommendations in Model Guidelines for the Recommendation of Marijuana in Patient Care, Report of the FSMB Workgroup on Marijuana and Medical Regulation, (Adopted as policy by the Federation of State Medical Boards April 2016)

“The physician should keep accurate and complete medical records. Information that should appear in the medical record includes, but is not necessarily limited to the following:

  • The patient’s medical history, including a review of prior medical records as appropriate;
  • Results of the physical examination, patient evaluation, diagnostic, therapeutic, and laboratory results;
  • Other treatments and prescribed medications;
  • Authorization, attestation, or recommendation for marijuana, to include date, expiration, and any additional information required by state statute;
  • Instructions to the patient, including discussions of risks and benefits, side effects, and variable effects;
  • Results of ongoing assessment and monitoring of patient’s response to the use of marijuana;
  • A copy of the signed Treatment Agreement, including instructions on safekeeping and instructions on not sharing “ (FSMB,p.8, 2016)

How can I monitor what dose and product was dispensed to my patient at the pharmacy, since medical cannabis products will not be listed in the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) or ABC-MAP?

Medical professionals and practitioners who register and are approved by the DOH will have access to subsequently log in to the state’s registry and search for your patient using their unique ID number. The product/dose/quantity/date dispensed is tracked in the registry software.

To get therapeutic information about your patient, you’ll need to communicate with the dispensing clinician. Dispensaries are telling providers that they will promote communication with the patient’s physician. Some dispensaries may offer optional patient health record portals.

The Office of Medical Marijuana staff can also assist practitioners in obtaining follow-up information from the registry database, if necessary, through a phone call during business hours.

How do we advocate for changes to current regulations?

Act 16 empowers the PA DOH to promulgate new medical marijuana temporary regulations on an ongoing basis and publish them in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, but they expire within 2 years and will need to be made permanent. Further changes to the regulations and to the Act 16 law can be made by the Secretary of Health on recommendation from the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board.

You can send written comments directed to the Office of Medical Marijuana Director John Collins, OMM Deputy Director and Regulatory Subcommittee Facilitator Larry  Clark, the entire MM Advisory Board, or Dr. Rachel Levine at  RA-DHMedMarijuana@pa.gov  and the Office of Medical Marijuana, 625 Forster Street, Room 628, Health and Welfare Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120.

Advisory Board meeting dates and Medical Marijuana regulatory announcements are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Education and informing policymakers is part of the mission of the SUDI at USciences.  Feel free to share with us your comments.  We may incorporate your ideas in our policy research or in future advocacy efforts.

What are the steps for certifying that a patient has a qualifying diagnosis, and for the patient (or their caregiver) to get their program ID card?

The patient (or caregiver) registers online, and receives a unique ID number.

Practitioner sees the patient, establishes an ongoing physician-patient relationship, and provides the patient with a letter confirming that they have a qualifying diagnosis. The patient gives the physician their ID number.

The physician goes online and certifies that the patient has a qualifying diagnosis (requires knowing the patient’s unique ID number. The physician must re-certify the patient annually.)

The patient goes online and completes the registration process and pays the fee required.

The patient will receive their card in the mail. (The first patients to have completed this process began getting their cards in January 2018.)

Note: A patient can go to the practitioner for an appointment without having decided to register yet. However, if the patient does decide to register for the program, the practitioner will not be able to do the online certification until the patient follows through and registers, then communicates their unique ID back to the practitioner.

What does a PA patient ID card look like?

An example of the MM Program Caregiver ID card is pictured in this slide from the from the Office of Medical Marijuana YouTube overview video (November 2017).

Medical Cannabis ID Card

Does USciences offer the DOH-approved certification course online?

We are offering the four-hour training course as live webinars on the Internet, and live in-person continuing education activities, which means that they will be up-to-date and offer the most current information.  New dates will be added to our web site as they are scheduled. Our live trainings usually have three, or sometimes four expert faculty, and offer opportunities for Q&A, discussion with peers, and to review the post-test answers with the faculty.

If you signed up on the email list on the Medical Cannabis Education web page, you’ll be notified when we add training course dates, or additional programs or resources. 

If you are seeking to take the course immediately, the several DOH-approved educational providers offer the required four-hour training course in an online form that can be taken at your own pace.


Recommendations for further reading from your course faculty.

Please see the Training Resources page.

USciences Substance Use Disorders Institute

Contact:

Gail Groves Scott MPH’16 Manager
Substance Use Disorders Institute

Address:

University of the Sciences
600 South 43rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495

Phone:

215-596-7636

Email:

g.scott@usciences.edu