Public Health Spotlight: DPH’s Low THC Oil Registry is about to come online – what you need to know

This is a follow-up to my previous letter sent on April 2, 2015. On Tuesday, June 16, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) will unveil its electronic “Low THC Oil Registry” required by HB 1, the “Haleigh’s Hope Act.”

As you may know, HB 1 was signed into law on April 16. The mechanics of the legislation dictate that in order for individuals to legally possess up to 20 fluid ounces of low THC (5 percent) cannabinoid oil in the state of Georgia, they must come to you to obtain written verification that they are suffering from one of the following eight conditions: cancer, when such diagnosis is end stage or the treatment produces related wasting illness, recalcitrant nausea and vomiting; seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries; ALS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and sickle cell disease, when such diagnosis of each disorder is severe or end stage; and Crohn’s disease or mitochondrial disease.

Please note, DPH has not and will not advise for or against the usage of low THC oil. The decision to allow your patients to do so is left solely to your discretion as a physician. Should you choose to allow your patients to use low THC oil please read this letter carefully, as the legislation places significant responsibilities on you and your staff.

First and foremost, you must sign a waiver with the patient or caregiver acknowledging “the use of cannabinoids and THC containing products have not been approved by the FDA and the clinical benefits are unknown and may cause harm.” Keep the original signed copy of this waiver – which can be found here on the  Low THC Oil page of our website – for your records.

Next, and also on our site, you (or a member of your staff) will need to sign up and log into our online “Low THC Registry” using your personal contact and medical information. Instructions for how to sign up and login can be found here and the secure portal itself can be found here. The questions you will need to answer and data you will need to input on behalf of your patient will mirror this certification form. Patients may proactively present you with a partially completed hardcopy of the form, or you may need to ascertain the appropriate information from them. Complete information must be entered into the online registry for your patient to receive a card. You may choose to retain a hardcopy of the certification form if you wish, but all of the information will be maintained in the online registry and that is considered to be the official record. Both the waiver and the certification form were developed by DPH and the Georgia Composite Medical Board, per the legislation’s requirements.

Once you have signed the waiver and entered the necessary information into the online portal you will have granted permission for your patient or their legal guardian or caregiver to possess low THC oil in the quantity stated above within the state of Georgia. At that point, your portion of the process will be complete. DPH will then print and issue a card to let law enforcement know that the card holder (be they the individual or their legal guardian or caregiver) is in legal possession of the oil.

Cards will be valid for two years. After that time, your patient will need to again come to you to fill out the certification form and have  their information updated in the registry. If the patient’s medical status has changed at the time, they may no longer qualify for a card.

Please promptly input information into the online portal so that we may begin the process of printing and delivering their cards. Individuals can expect to receive their cards within 15 business days of their information being entered into the registry.

We understand this process may appear complicated, especially initially. We assure you we have tried to create the most user friendly and seamless process possible. Our hope is that once you have signed up for the registry, future patient entries can be done quickly and with minimal effort by you and your staff.

HB1 also requires quarterly reports from you to the Medical Composite Board. From the legislation: “The reports will require physicians to provide information, including but not limited to, dosages recommended for a particular condition, clinical responses, compliance, responses to treatment, side effects, and drug interactions.” We are working with the Composite Board to attempt to make this easier for you through the use of the registry itself. That is under development and we will have more information for you soon.

Should you have further questions, please refer to our Physician FAQ here. Please also feel free to reach out to me or my staff. We want to make sure you have all the information you need.

Very truly yours,

Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D.