The Redding Record Searchlight‘s Ryan Sabalow paints a classic tale of the principled old guard taking a stand against exploitative, profit-hungry carpetbaggers, one that just happens to take place in the wild west of northern California’s medical marijuana clinics. Since last year’s federal directive effectively allowed the state’s clinics to operate with impunity, a number of traveling physicians have come up from the south to open clinics in this northern outdoor recreation hub which more than 100,000 residents call home.
At $150 for each brief exam (no tricky medical procedures involved), the granting of medical marijuana recommendations is low-overhead work that holds the promise of substantial profit. A physician would need to see just 30 patients a day to gross more than $1 million a year, Sabalow writes. One local Redding doctor (the only one who specializes in pot, really) has found that the newcomers seem to care more about money than medicine.
[Dr. Terrence Malee] gave the example of a cage fighter who came in to his office trying to intimidate him into getting a recommendation that allowed him to have 7 ounces of marijuana in a week, when most patients are only recommended 2.
“I said, ‘Look, bud, the last time you went to the doctor and asked him for 1,000 Vicodin, did he give it to you? No. Well, I’m not going to give you 7 ounces either,” Malee said, laughing.
In a companion piece, Sabalow looks beyond California’s borders, thanks in part to the responses of other AHCJ members via our electronic discussion list. In particular, he looks at Montana, where traveling “cannabis caravans” have swelled the ranks of medicinal marijuana users in every corner of the state and Colorado, where five doctors accounted for over half of the state’s medical marijuana recommendations.
The Record Searchlight‘s editorial board followed up with an piece that questions the wisdom of making medicinal marijuana so easy to obtain.
But it’s hard not to see a stretching of the state’s groundbreaking 1996 Compassionate Use Act beyond all recognition when patients arrive not thanks to a referral from their family doctor, but after hearing a 30-second ad on the local rock station.
For more on Colorado’s effort to reign in physicians who recommend medical marijuana, see Eric Whitney’s piece for Colorado Public Radio.