LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Corey Stone needed a solution.
“I didn't feel like myself. My fiancé and my children, they would always tell me like, you're just not the same person,” he said.
The Bowling Green resident said his PTSD medication made him depressed and foggy.
He heard that medical marijuana could alleviate some of his symptoms. So, after Governor Andy Beshear's executive order went into effect making medical cannabis accessible to qualifying Kentuckians, Stone explored his options.
He said therapist Michael RoBards suggested he get a medical cannabis card through an associate -- a child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr. William Owen.
After paying $150, Stone got a draft card back. He got suspicious and contacted Kentucky NORML, a medical cannabis advocacy nonprofit.
“I asked him about it, and he said that it's not a scam or anything like that,” Stone recalled. “But, the doctor that apparently wrote off on my paperwork I’ve never once seen, and I think that's illegal.”
In a joint statement, RoBards said he and Owen have worked together for 15 years and “are committed to provide comprehensive collaborative healthcare." He also said they’ve spoken with a member of Beshear's Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee about the best way to implement the executive order.
Deputy Director of Kentucky NORML Lauren Bratcher said there's a lot of gray area within the executive order.
“People don't understand that it's an extension of his pardon power, meaning this is not legal here. It's more of a ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card,’” Bratcher said of the governor’s executive order.
Thus, she believes people should not have to pay for a certification.
“It looks predatory,” she said. “A lot of these people are on disability. They're chronically ill and they can't afford to lose $200 or $300."
Bratcher also points to the possibility that other states that have legalized medical marijuana will not accept the certification because the drug is not legal in Kentucky.
She said if medical cannabis becomes legalized through the legislature, it’ll become streamlined and distributed more like a drivers’ license.
Dr. Michael Lovelace, owner of Derby City Primary Care, charges $250 for a medical marijuana card.
As a whole, his practice doesn't take insurance and the one-time fee is only for patients who aren't regulars.
“And then it also covers up to a year of follow up questions regarding the medical cannabis certificate,” Lovelace said. “So if there are things that change, let's say the requirements change, like that would include anything I would need to do.”
Lovelace said he's only seen 8-10 people since the executive order went into effect. He said some of them approach him or are referred after their primary doctor say they need medical cannabis, but don't feel comfortable
signing off on the paperwork.
“For most patients, I usually speak to them two or three times before they come to my clinic,” Lovelace said.
He said he receives and evaluates the patients’ medical history and certifies it with their doctor. After establishing that patient-doctor relationship, he said he signs off on the required document.
While he acknowledges the possibility of scams surrounding the new executive order, Lovelace said his practice isn’t one of them.
“Whether it's cancer, whether it's anxiety, whether it's PTSD, whether it's medical cannabis, you know, there's always unfortunately, there's always somebody trying to scam people in medicine,” he said. “And so that's why I would recommend is you approach the situation slowly.”
Bratcher encourages Kentuckians to google the location of the clinic offering certification, call and speak to a doctor and look up their license. And if there’s still uncertainty, she encourages Kentuckians to reach out.
Michael RoBards and Dr. William Owen's full statement below:
"Dr. William Owen, MD, and Michael RoBards, LCSW, have worked together over the last 15 years and are committed to provide comprehensive collaborative healthcare including the patient’s primary care doctor, specialists, and community supports their patients need.
Under Kentucky law, patients are entitled to a free copy of their healthcare record. At no point are any patients ever charged for a copy of their medical record, which may include their Healthcare Provider Certification Form.
Due to privacy concerns of patient care, Dr. Owen and Mr. RoBards spoke with several other physicians, healthcare providers, and with a member of Gov. Beshear’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee about the best way to implement the Executive Order while also protecting their patient’s private medical history. Dr. Owen and Mr. RoBards believed some type of more secure verification process is in the best interest of their patients; and have been working to implement a HIPAA compliant method giving secure access to their medical record. Cards have been considered, and a draft card is in development. There is a valid concern that “card mills” will develop in Kentucky that have no ability or intent to provide patient care."
Statement from Scottie Ellis, public information officer with Governor Andy Beshear's Office:
"Unfortunately scams often take place with new programs, which is why we encourage Kentuckians to refer directly to the Executive Order (EO) which states what must be in the document from a doctor, including that the individual has been diagnosed with one of 21 conditions listed in the EO. Please refer to #4 on page 3 to see specific requirements for health care providers."