Rhode Island’s health department has given initial approval to a consulting firm that will help patients join the state’s medical marijuana program.
The decision could make the firm, called B&B Consulting, the country’s first medical marijuana consulting firm to gain approval from a state health department.
The Warwick-based firm has two doctors on staff: Timothy Spurrell and Thomas Robert Rocco Jr. Both will provide patient evaluations and then decide whether medical marijuana should be prescribed.
The business predicts it will evaluate 647 patients in its first year; 1,555 in year two; and 1,600 in year three.
An initial visit costs $200 with follow-up visits costing $50. Consulting services cost $140. Medicare, Medicaid and other health insurance plans do not cover the visits.
Currently there are 6,700 medical marijuana patients in the state.
The business could fill an important void in Rhode Island.
According to JoAnne Leppanen of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, many patients seeking marijuana who go to the Veterans Administration Medical Center and community health centers are turned away. Both hospitals are funded by federal dollars and therefore cannot do business with the plant, which is still federally illegal.
Other doctors in Rhode Island are hesitant to prescribe medical marijuana because of the plant’s controversial reputation.
Under the law, doctors must establish and maintain medical records with qualifying patients for the medical marijuana program. They must also approve marijuana based on their own diagnosis. Once the patient is diagnosed, he/she must then receive final clearance from the state’s health department before joining the program.
The department will likely give its final decision on the firm by the end of the month.