CA docs recommend pot, but never see the patient

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Once again, the the Redding Record Searchlight’s Ryan Sabalow has used his distance from the clinic booms in Southern California and the Bay Area to tackle the the state’s medical marijuana issues with clarity and context.

It’s because Sabalow knows all four clinics, as well as local law enforcement and other authories, in his mid-size Northern California town that he’s able to illuminate issues such as traveling clinics and, most recently, the ambiguous regulations that seem to allow physician assistants to examine patients looking for marijuana recommendations as long as they’re “overseen” by a physician, one who may live hundreds of miles away.

reeferPhoto by Troy Holden via Flickr.

420 Med Consultations, the PA-staffed clinic in Redding, competes on price (it’s $120 for a recommendation, while the others are in the $149 to $200 range), and has recommendations endorsed remotely by doctors in other parts of the state. An apparently related Craigslist posting invited patients to “COME GET LEGAL!” and announces that “We will renew for any Doctor!! With 24/7 Verification!!”

State physician assistant regulators say that a licensed doctor must personally examine each patient before issuing a “recommendation” that they be allowed to use medical marijuana, but the law itself is ambiguous. By being examined by an assistant, patients just might be at risk of their recommendation being considered invalid at some point down the road. The LA doctor who owns the Redding clinic, Dr. Xueren Zhao, says his operation is “100 percent legal.”

He said that in traditional medical clinics, doctors can review a patient’s chart and make a treatment determination based on an evaluation by a physician assistant.

… each patient’s chart is reviewed by a physician and that the patient’s recommendation would be revoked and their money refunded if the doctor found anything wrong, Zhao said.

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