The Rhode Island Medical Society on Monday was added as a plaintiff to a lawsuit that seeks to reverse strict new rules for the state’s medical marijuana program.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island earlier this month, alleges new rules implemented by the state Department of Health (DOH) makes it difficult for some patients with debilitating medical conditions to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program.

For six years, registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants were able to certify a patient for participation in the medical marijuana program. Under the new policy, however, only physicians can certify a patient. The ACLU said the new policy forces patients to see more doctors and thereby pay more fees.

"Patients know that medical offices are busy places, and the last thing we want to do is impede the workflow in those offices, which is the only practical effect the Health Department’s rule would have," Steven R. DeToy, Director of Public and Government Affairs for RIMS, said in a statement.

"Patients’ time with their doctor is precious, as we all know," DeToy added. "Doctors need to be able to delegate to other members of the health care team so as to have more time with patients. Physician Assistants and nurse practitioners are critical members of the health care delivery team in many doctors’ offices. This arbitrary change by the Department of Health cannot go unchallenged.”

[Medical marijuana via Andre Blais / Shutterstock]