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Washington State Doctors Can Now Advertise Medical Marijuana Prescriptions

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By; Puget Sound Business Journal Email  |  Twitter

Washington State Doctors Can Now Advertise Medical Marijuana Prescriptions

‘A state judge has ruled that doctors and health care providers can talk about medical marijuana certifications in advertisements, according to public records.

The ruling overturns a previous law, which made it illegal for any health care provider to advertise medical pot.

Osteopath Dr. Scott Havsy was sued in 2012 by the Department of Health for publishing advertisements on his website and in phonebooks that said, “Find out if you qualify for a green card,” according to public records.

The advertisements also showed a marijuana leaf with a prescription symbol overlaid on it and, if you clicked through, led to information about medical marijuana in general, and links to state medical marijuana law and regulations.

The Department of Health stated Havsy was in violation of a law prohibiting medical marijuana advertisements by health care providers.

But last week, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Martin ruled that the law, and banning Havsy’s advertisements, was a violation of the First Amendment, the right to free speech, including for commercial purposes.

Martin wrote that while the state may have interest in limiting advertisements such as Havsy’s, to totally prohibit them is unnecessary.

“I believe an argument can be made that the speech in question is not purely commercial,” wrote Martin in the court’s decision. “But has an informational component for the benefit of the recipient.”

The ruling means patients won’t have to rely on marijuana aggregator websites or forums for information on which doctors may be willing to prescribe medical marijuana authorization cards.

State-issued websites, including the Washington state Liquor Control Board, do not provide that type information.

“The result of [the previously enforced]statute is that the public cannot be informed by any health care provider, including Dr. Havsy, as to whether that provider is even available or willing to perform the required medical exam for the certificate of use,” wrote Martin.

While advertising medical marijuana remains illegal under federal and state law, Havsy argued he was advertising a service, not the drug itself.

The ruling comes as state lawmakers prepare to reform the medical marijuana industry, which is loosely regulated within the state.

Sarah Aitchison covers general business news for the Puget Sound Business Journal.

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