Colorado Marijuana Prescriptions Land Doctor Behind Bars

It’s not enough that state laws in 20 states plus D.C. have granted doctors permission to prescribe patients with marijuana as medicine.
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Our Colorado marijuana lawyers know that doctors may still face criminal liability if authorities determine the examinations conducted prior to dispensing those prescriptions weren’t adequate.

Such was the case for a Loveland doctor, who was recently convicted of prescribing marijuana without conducting a proper examination. Colorado law requires that doctors and patients have a “bona fide relationship” before the doctor can legally prescribe marijuana to that patient.

However, the definition of what constitutes a “proper examination” remains a bit fuzzy. According to investigators, an undercover detective visited the doctor’s office and told him he was seeking a medical marijuana card, but didn’t meet the required conditions. In the video evidence used to convicted the Loveland doctor, the physician asks the undercover officer if he has ever experienced any pain. The detective responds that he hurt his ankle playing high school basketball several years ago.

The doctor then says he guessed he should take a look at the patient’s right ankle. The doctor reportedly did this. Based upon that examination, the doctor granted the undercover detective a prescription for medical marijuana.

In addition to the 30 days of incarceration to which he was sentenced, the doctor also received three years of probation for attempting to influence a public servant and had his medical license temporarily suspended.

The doctor says he plans to appeal, indicating an entrapment defense on the basis that the undercover detective lied in order to obtain an appointment.

This conviction, according to the Denver Post, is believed to be the first and only of a doctor in Colorado for a possibly questionable marijuana recommendation.

The drug has been legal in Colorado since 2000. In the last four years, the medicinal marijuana patient registry has ballooned from 6,000 to more than 100,000. Authorities say the reason is that oversight of physicians who prescribe the drug is both lax and inconsistent.

However, even at 100,000, we’re talking about a small portion of the state’s 5.2 million people. If we were to look at the number of individuals who are legitimately prescribed oxycodone, we might see similar or even higher figures.

We suspect the upward trend in prescriptions may have a fair amount to do with the fact that the drug has exponentially increased in terms of acceptability by the medical community in recent years.

Still, doctors would do well to be careful – and consult with an experienced Colorado marijuana attorney if they are involved in the regular prescription of the drug. Both the media and state officials are scrutinizing these cases more closely than ever.

A state audit released in September noted that some doctors were taking on massive numbers of marijuana patients – one as many as 8,500 – and approving plant counts for them that often far outpaced what some authorities consider to be reasonable.

The state’s health department referred five doctors to the state’s medical board for an extensive investigation back in 2011, but it hasn’t made any similar recommendations since.

These cases may be further compounded by the fact that marijuana is now legal for recreational purposes for adults in the state. However, the only way 18 to 21-year-olds can obtain it is still through a medical marijuana card. This means doctors would do well to be especially cautious in doling out prescriptions to younger patients.

The Colorado CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Doctor Convicted For Improperly Recommending Medical Marijuana, Oct. 7, 2013, By Rick Sallinger, CBS Denver
More Blog Entries:
Colorado Recreational Marijuana Business Applications Now Accepted, Oct. 6, 2013, Colorado Marijuana Lawyer Blog