NY doctor opens office in Greenfield to certify patients for medical marijuana use



Last modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2015

GREENFIELD — One doctor has set up shop on Federal Street to certify patients for medical marijuana just as the state has provisionally approved a dispensary downtown.

Dr. Kwesi Ntiforo has opened DocsConsult Medical at 106 Federal St. in addition to his work as a part-time overnight hospitalist at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

Ntiforo opened his office as the state provisionally approved a registered dispensary license for Patriot Care Corp. to run a facility at the American Legion Hall off Wells Street. At the same time, the state cleared the way for New England Treatment Access to move to a final inspection phase for its planned dispensary at 118 Conz St. in Northampton.

So far, Ntiforo has certified eight patients in Greenfield, who learned of his office through word of mouth.

Ntiforo has traditionally consulted patients for weight loss, and those who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

His primary office is in New York, where he learned that many of his patients, particularly veterans, were illegally smoking marijuana to treat a variety of conditions from PTSD to chronic joint pain to depression.

“It’s something I had informally been accustomed to,” Ntiforo said. “A lot of veterans requested I become a clinician to certify them in New York.”

When Massachusetts passed its law to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, Ntiforo decided to certify patients in this state as well. He had already been working in Greenfield at Baystate Franklin for 2½ years. He works for two weeks a month at night as a contract employee.

As in his New York office, here he plans to treat patients for weight loss, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression issues and to certify those seeking medical marijuana.

While Ntiforo says he has never smoked marijuana, he is convinced it can have a role in medicine. “There are medical benefits. Most of the research is in Europe,” Ntiforo said.

He said he plans to be strict in his certifications, requiring a screening and consultation to determine whether a patient should have medical marijuana.

To become certified, under state law, the qualifying patients must have a debilitating medical condition, which includes cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

The law also allows patients to be certified for other debilitating conditions as determined by a doctor. According to the state, a debilitating condition causes weakness, wasting syndrome, intractable pain or nausea, or impairs strength or ability, and substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Ntiforo will not treat people for these conditions. Rather, the doctors who are treating patients for the qualifying conditions would refer them to Ntiforo to be certified for medical marijuana to help with symptoms or side-effects of treatment.

State rules

There are certain requirements under state law for a doctor to be able to certify patients.

A certifying physician must be licensed in Massachusetts and have no prescribing restrictions, hold a state registration for controlled substances, and use at least one established place of practice in the state.

Doctors must also complete continuing education development credits, overseen by the Board of Registration in Medicine, that explain the proper use of marijuana, including side effects and dosage and substance abuse recognition, diagnosis and treatment related to marijuana.

Ntiforo completed a total of 27 credit hours to become registered to certify patients through Answer Page, an online education system for doctors accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.

To become a certifying physician, doctors must register through the state’s electronic registration system that launched this past fall. The state does not release names of doctors who are registered to certify patients.

The system will also be used to track the amount of marijuana purchased by every qualifying patient each month. The system is now being used by doctors to certify patients and by patients to complete registration.

Once the dispensaries open, they will have to access the system to confirm that patients are certified.

The law allows a qualifying patient to possess up to a 60-day supply of marijuana for personal medical use, which is defined as a supply of up to 10 ounces.

Doctors are also responsible for including the length of time a certification is valid within the guidelines between 15 days and one year.

Ntiforo said he will determine how long each certification lasts depending on each patient’s condition, and that he will require patients to report every 30 days.

Law enforcement will also have access to the system to verify that an individual can legally purchase and possess marijuana for medical use.




 


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