MMJ Doctor Online is an online medical cannabis recommendation service that claims to provide legal, legitimate, medical cannabis card evaluations for patients in several states across the US, including California and Nevada. However, their service is cultivating alarm and raising red flags due to the discovery that recommendations are being approved with virtually no doctor-patient interaction.
With the cannabis industry booming, there are now several options for people looking to obtain medical cannabis recommendations. Telemedicine communication has become one of most popular options for individuals to obtain cannabis recommendations, due to the accessibility and convenience.
While there are now several online cannabis card evaluation services, including PrestoDoctor, if you search for “Online California Cannabis Card Recommendations”, MMJ Doctor Online is the second search result that you will see on Google. This is unsettling for several reasons- the largest one being that their service is widely used, yet their recommendations may not be valid due to these findings:
• Patients who sign up with MMJ Doctor Online never actually speak to a doctor through video chat, phone call, or web-chat– which may be violating Medical Marijuana Telemedicine Laws & Guidelines
• Recommendations often do not arrive with the California verified gold seal, recommendation verification numbers can often not be verified, and there is no way to check doctor credentials prior to appointment
Let’s examine this further.
Medical Marijuana & Telemedicine Law
Telemedicine law has expanded over recent years, and legal dialogue and guidelines surrounding telemedicine are continuing to change. Doctors and patients in over 5 states can now legally evaluate patients through telemedicine communication without a prior face-to-face appointment.
While this opens many doors for companies looking to use telecommunication for medical services, there are still medical guidelines that must be followed- some of which are possibly being neglected by MMJ Doctor Online.
MarijaunaDoctors.com (a leading site for information regarding telehealth and medical marijuana) states:
As per Section 2290.5 of the California Business and Professions Code, [telehealth] is defined as “… the mode of delivering health care services and public health via information and communication technologies to facilitate the diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management, and self-management of a patient’s health care…
As of January 1st, 2016, new guidelines regarding medical marijuana and telehealth communication state:
Telemedicine recommendations [can be issued] as long as the state considers telemedicine doctor-patient examinations as an “appropriate…examination.”
A Grey Area for Telehealth Guidelines
This new dialogue creates a grey area as to what is considered an “appropriate” examination for medical cannabis under telemedicine guidelines.
According to The Medical Board of California:
“The initial examination for the condition for which marijuana is being recommended must be an appropriate…examination and meet the standard of care. Telehealth, in compliance with Business and Professions Code section 2290.5, is a tool in the practice of medicine and does not change the standard of care.“
Is a video chat appointment appropriate? Yes. This is probably the best form of telemedicine communication. Phone calls may also be acceptable because the two parties can communicate effectively about their medical conditions and concerns. However, chats and text conversations are probably pushing the limits of what is acceptable under telehealth guidelines. Most telemedicine services opt for the highest standard of telehealth communication– the video chat appointment.
MMJ Doctor Online: No Doctor/Patient Communication
MMJ Doctor Online does not comply with any of the above telecommunication methods. The patient and “doctor” have no communication whatsoever. Rather, the patient submits a short medical questionnaire, which a doctor “evaluates” and then sends confirmation of approval within 10-15 minutes.
To examine this further, we reached out to the support staff at MMJ Doctor Online for some clarification on the process. Our chat message was accepted by a support agent called “Alice”, who was currently in Alblasserdam, Netherlands.
When speaking with support staff for MMJ Doctor Online, it was made clear that there is no way of verifying doctor credentials prior to submitting your medical questionnaire. Alice directed us to the California Medical Board, and let us know that we could verify the doctor’s credentials after receiving the recommendation.
When asked if there is any way to view the credentials of the doctors before being evaluated, they responded by saying that they had no way to determine which doctor would be conducting the evaluation.
We then asked them how we were going to go about speaking with the doctor, and whether there would be a video chat appointment. Alice explained that all we needed to do was create an account, fill out the medical questionnaire, and then we would be mailed the recommendation.
Following up, we asked Alice how we would be able to contact the doctor if we had any questions or concerns regarding medical marijuana?
They explained that the service was only an evaluation, not a consultation.
“Best Practice” for Doctors Recommending Medical Cannabis
Doctors evaluating patients for medical marijuana recommendations are instructed to use “Best Practice” methods for the evaluation.
The California Medical Association instructs physicians to thoroughly evaluate the medical history of a patient and discuss their current medications. They must also give the patient a way to follow up with any questions or to discuss side-effects.
The California Medical Association explains specific points that physicians need to comply with in order to be using “best practice” methods:
They should be advised to consume as little as possible to produce the desired medical effect. Patients should be queried as to the development of tolerance and withdrawal phenomena and their ability to control the intake of medical cannabis…The physician should inquire as to the outcome of the use of this medication in terms of its efficacy and side effects on a periodic basis…The physician should assess and document patient-specific risks…
Clearly, MMJ Doctor Online has no way of following these guidelines without any doctor/patient correspondence. Consultations between doctor and patient are non-negotiable when it comes to following medical marijuana telehealth guidelines. Without this, MMJ Doctor is walking a fine line of legality.
Are MMJ Doctor Online Recommendations Valid?
After viewing several reviews on MMJ Doctor Online’s business FaceBook page, it is clear that many patients are having similar concerns about the validity of their service. Many users of the site report their recommendations arriving without a gold seal (gold seals are not required for recommendation validity, but most California dispensaries will not accept a recommendation without it).
Others report never receiving their recommendation in the mail after contacting the company several times, and being unable to confidently verify that their recommendation is in fact legitimate.
Verifying medical card numbers is simple if patients decide to take the extra step of registering as a cannabis card holder with the state of California. This can be done through the California Department of Public Health’s website for Medical Marijuana Verification. It is not required for patients to do this, but it offers an additional step of verification for people looking to cover all legal bases. Still, dispensaries often check the validity of their customer’s recommendations, especially if they’re from an online evaluation.
Because of this, online medical evaluation sites generally build their own verification pages for dispensaries to use. This practice is common, as PrestoDoctor also uses this verification method with PrestoVerify. However, using MMJ Doctor’s verification site does not technically ensure that that recommendation is actually valid. Patient’s reviewing MMJ Doctor Online have posted comments describing how their recommendation verification numbers “don’t numerically make sense”. Without a trusted verification site, gold seal, and contact information for the evaluating doctor, the validity of MMJ Doctor Online recommendations is highly questionable.
Have You Been Scammed by MMJ Doctor Online? PrestoDoctor Will Re-Evaluate You
MMJ Doctor Online’s website is set-up to mimic a legal, verifiable telemedicine site. The sign-up process is similar many online cannabis card sites. They even offer “answers” to questions about the validity of their service in the FAQ section. However, their actions, and product, reveal a much seedier situation.
If you’ve been misled by MMJ Doctor Online, PrestoDoctor will give you a discounted appointment with a board certified doctor. PrestoDoctor evaluations are conducted through secure video chat, and are 100% HIPAA compliant. You will receive a temporary PDF of the recommendation, an official copy with gold seal, an ID card, and a personalized treatment plan.
Need more information about the doctors? No problem- We’ll direct you to their personal information page where you can view and verify their credentials. Reach out to PrestoDoctor for more information!