Two naturopaths are facing disciplinary action after a weekend of writing medical marijuana authorizations at last year's Hempfest.
Two naturopaths are facing disciplinary action after a weekend of writing medical marijuana authorizations at last year’s Hempfest.
Carolyn Lee Bearss and Dimitrios “Jimmy” Magiasis were charged Tuesday by the state Department of Health (DOH) with running a medical marijuana “assembly line,” writing authorizations at the festival without following the proper standard of care. Between them, the practitioners saw 216 patients at the three-day festival; they sent only two away without an authorization, according to the statement of charges.
They are the first Washington medical providers facing disciplinary action in connection with writing marijuana authorizations, according to Tim Church, a spokesman for the DOH.
Both naturopaths were working at the festival on contract for a business that owns 4Evergreen Group, a clinic with locations in Seattle and Tacoma. Eric Camm, an attorney for the practitioners, said in a statement that his clients “strongly disagree with the characterizations contained within those allegations,” but declined further comment.
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According to a Seattle Times story written about the festival, 4Evergreen was handing out fliers at the entrance to the marijuana festival advertising authorizations for $200 — or $150 for patients who had their medical records with them. Patients watched a short video about Washington’s law, which allows qualified patients to possess marijuana within certain limits, then had their chance to see a medical provider.
The DOH did not receive any complaints about the practitioners’ care; instead, the agency opened an investigation after learning of the article.
“This isn’t really necessarily about marijuana,” Church said. “It’s more about the standard of care.”
According to the statement of charges, the naturopaths wrote authorizations based on examinations that were cursory; they didn’t fully delve into the causes of patients’ complaints or order further tests; they used generic, boilerplate language for their chart notes; and they did not make arrangements for follow-up care. They also authorized marijuana for patients whose pain was not “intractable” or “terminal,” as the law requires, and did not explore other treatment options.
Under the law “you can’t just jump to medical marijuana as a treatment for pain,” said Blake Maresh, executive director of the Board of Naturopathy.
“This assembly line type of practice failed to meet the standard of care because individualized treatment options were not adequately rendered to the patient,” according to the charges.
Philip Dawdy, media director for the Safe Access Alliance, said the board appears to be holding the naturopaths to a different standard than others. “At a busy primary care clinic, a doctor is going to see more than 100 patients in three days,” he said.
If Bearss or Magiasis is found to have committed the violations, either could face medical-license revocation, suspension or restrictions.
Although DOH does not appear to have taken disciplinary action against a medical professional for recommending cannabis, the agency in July charged a Tacoma physician, Dr. Scott Havsy, with advertising his willingness to recommend it. Havsy plans to fight the charges.