SAGINAW — A Saginaw Township doctor is one of the first physicians in Michigan to face federal indictment for certifying medical marijuana patients, according to Matthew R. Abel, an attorney for the Detroit-based Cannabis Counsel.
On April 5, the U.S. Attorney General’s office indicted Dr. Ruth A. Buck, owner of Mid-Michigan Medical Marijuana Clinic at 2137 Warwick in Saginaw, for aiding and abetting the distribution of marijuana.
Her office and home were raided March 17.
“There have not been any doctors charged with crimes that I am aware of since the (state) law began.” Abel said. “It’s unconscionable that doctors are being incarcerated.”
Marijuana use and distribution remain illegal under federal law, although President Barack Obama has said federal authorities will not enforce the law in states, such as Michigan, that allow marijuana use for medical purposes.
The federal charges come after Buck was charged separately under state law with three counts of unlawfully distributing controlled substances.
Those charges stem from allegations that, between January 2006 and July 2009, Buck prescribed more than 1.5 million doses of painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Xanax, morphine, methadone and Dilaudid from her former office in Thomas Township, authorities have said.
Buck’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the prescription charges and argues that a doctor has a subjective right to determine the necessity of pain medication for patients. The case remains open.
Today, Buck is in federal custody pending a hearing in U.S. District Court in Bay City on Thursday to determine if her bond should be revoked as requested by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
The federal complaint questions the due diligence of Buck’s patient reviews and alleges that she discussed obtaining and growing marijuana with at least one patient, whom she also referred to a Bay City dispensary to acquire marijuana.
Carl J. Marlinga, Buck’s Clinton Township-based attorney, could not be reached for comment.
The federal complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Bay City, alleges that Buck issued 1,870 medical marijuana certificates between the time the state law passed two years ago and March 17, for which Buck charged $200 per certification and $150 per renewal, the complaint says.
It cites occasions in which a “confidential source” and an undercover DEA agent visited Buck’s office for medical marijuana recommendations. According to the law, patients must have a “debilitating medical condition” to qualify for medical marijuana.
One source told Buck they smoked daily for anxiety and wanted to “get legal,” but Buck said “the qualifying diagnosis is not anxiety or depression” and proceeded to ask a series of medical questions.
Authorities allege Buck certified that the patient’s elbow, which they said occasionally becomes numb, was a “debilitating condition” that included “severe and chronic pain.”
“That allegation, even if arguably true (which it is not) would not subject her to criminal process or jail time in the state system,” it says. “It should not result in jail time in the federal system either, since that would be an end-run around protections of Michigan law.”
Marlinga proceeds to say that Buck complied with state law, only issuing recommendations to qualified medical marijuana patients who suffered from severe and chronic pain.
Furthermore, the response says, “Michigan law says physicians “shall not be subject to arrests, prosecution or penalty in any manner” for rendering an opinion that a patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the medical use of marijuana.
Abel said this latest move by federal agents will likely have a “chilling effect” on doctors who issue medical marijuana recommendations.
What is your take on the move by government officials to raid Buck’s office, indict and jail her for her involvement in the issuance of medical marijuana recommendations?
Published: Tuesday, April 12, 2011,
By Gus Burns
The Saginaw News
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Federal agents jail Michigan doctor for issuing medical marijuana recommendations