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  1. CaptainTripps
    View attachment 22174 No medical records? No problem. Got my pot card at Hempfest

    Medical-marijuana authorizations at Hempfest in Seattle come fast and easy as 4Evergreen Group offers them for $200 with no patient medical records at its festival tent.

    Squeezed between a Ben & Jerry's cart and a booth selling rolling papers, two naturopathic doctors worked briskly through a line of patients.
    The patients — old and young, stooped and tattooed — had been funneled to the doctors' white tent by a blizzard of fliers handed out at the entrance of Seattle's Hempfest, the three-day festival of all things marijuana.

    The ads, by a clinic called 4Evergreen Group, offered authorization to use medical marijuana for one year for $150 if the patient had medical records; $200 with no medical records.

    I was one of the first in line Friday, no medical records in hand but curious about how the process worked. After watching a short instructional video and meeting with a naturopath for 11 minutes, I joined the uncounted but growing number of Washingtonians able to legally posses 1-½ pounds of cannabis and 15 plants.

    Throughout the 13-year history of the state medical-marijuana law, the issue of how patients get authorized has been overshadowed by battles between advocates and law enforcement over rules for possession.

    But the Legislature's 2010 expansion in the type of medical professionals able to authorize marijuana, and the emergence of specialty authorization clinics, helped stoke a boom in the medical-cannabis industry. That pushes the issue of authorizations to more prominence, none more visible than 4Evergreen's Hempfest tent.

    I was authorized for recurring lower-back pain, a condition the naturopath found to be covered under the law's definition "a terminal or debilitating medical condition" because it caused "intractable pain." It flares up weekly, but I haven't missed work for it in years.

    The authorization process appears to largely comply with state law, even if I might not be the type of patient voters had in mind when they passed the law in 1998.

    "The intent of the law is to treat people with terrible, serious, even life-threatening conditions that may be helped with medical marijuana," said Donn Moyer, a spokesman for the Department of Health. "Ask yourself, is that what's happening out there?"

    4Evergreen, with locations on Seattle's Aurora Avenue North, and in Tacoma, advertises itself as "the premiere patient network." Its Hempfest tent is well-known among advocates.

    A staff member advertised the "no medical records" offer outside the tent while, inside, patients filed into bathtub-size exam rooms separated by curtains. Patients were asked to fill out a medical inventory of problems and to watch a video describing fine points of the medical-marijuana law and advising patients to not drive while high.

    I waited nearly two hours to see Dr. Carolyn Lee Bearss. . "Let's focus on your back," Bearss said.

    State law limits medical-marijuana use to patients with such debilitating conditions as AIDS-related wasting syndrome and multiple sclerosis. Intractable pain is defined as not easily managed, relieved or cured by other treatments.

    I did not embellish, although, with no medical records on hand, nothing would have prevented it. I describe a four-year problem, treated by physical therapy, prescription and over-the-counter pain remedies, with weekly flare-ups ranging from slight to severe. Most of my male friends and family have similar complaints.

    As required by the state law, Bearss did a physical exam, asking me to stretch until it hurt. She talked about other alternatives, including acupuncture, and advised me to see my primary doctor about other medical issues.

    Then, after 11 minutes, she signed the one-year authorization on tamper-proof paper, and I handed over my credit card.
    When I identified myself as a reporter after the exam, Bearss declined to be interviewed.

    Dr. Dimitrios "Jimmy" Magiasis, the second naturopath working in the tent and 4Evergreen's medical director, said Bearss' questions and physical exam were to "assess that you have what you say you have."

    Magiasis said most of 4Evergreen's patients are authorized for "chronic pain," and he believes marijuana is a better treatment because it doesn't cause stomach problems like some prescription narcotics. "Why does someone have to be suffering before they take cannabis? Why does someone have to take Vicodin before cannabis?" asked Magiasis.

    Since taking over as medical director about two months ago, Magiasis said, he's tried to professionalize the operation, such as taking the blood pressure of each patient and stopping such questionable practices as "group authorizations."

    But he acknowledges the Hempfest tent — surrounded by booths selling bongs — prompted complaints from other doctors about professionalism. "It's something we'll be discussing after it's over," he said.

    The Hempfest tent doesn't bother Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, medical marijuana's prime champion in Olympia, because it may be convenient for legitimate patients unsure how to get authorized.

    But she noted that the law requires "intractable pain," not "chronic pain," and wonders how a doctor can so quickly diagnose a long-term condition without medical records.

    "I think that may be a rather loose evaluation," said Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle. "I think that does not meet the spirit of the law, if not the technicality of the law."

    Melissa Leggee, chief executive of a statewide network of authorization clinics, agrees. Changes in the state law, which took effect in late July, require an authorizing doctor to provide "ongoing treatment or monitoring" of a patient's condition. In the 4Evergreen tent, the only mention of a follow-up visit was in a year, when the authorization expired.

    Clinics should only authorize patients with medical records to prove their condition, said Leggee, of CBR Medical based in Spokane. "How many stoners out there are going to say, 'I'm a chronic pain patient'?" she said.
    Although Department of Health's (DOH) professional boards can discipline doctors and others for violating the medical-marijuana law, none has been cited, according to DOH records.

    Nursing regulators recently looked into a complaint involving two Spokane nurses for allegedly improperly signing medical-marijuana authorizations, but did not take action. In March, the Medical Quality Assurance Commission, which regulates doctors, open and quickly closed an ethics complaint against a Seattle-area physician involving an advertisement promising authorizations that would "stand up in court."

    Moyer, the DOH spokesman, said the department has not had a test case from a patient claiming to be inappropriately authorized for medical marijuana. Without such a complaint, regulators have treated authorizations akin to a second opinion, giving wide latitude for professional judgment.

    "It's very hard to involve the regulatory authority in the patient-physician relationship," he said.

    At the 4Evergreen tent, prospective patients began to queue up in the late afternoon. A 54-year-old woman, who gave her name only as Sharon, said she suffered from diverticulitis, a painful swelling of the colon. She hoped marijuana would halt her weight loss. "I'm past the point of trying anything," she said, but added that she was nervous about the process.
    As she fretted, a pair of young men elbowed past.
    "It's painless, dude," said one, and began filling out paperwork

    . By Jonathan Martin
    Seattle Times staff reporter Originally published August 20, 2011 at 6:29 PM | Page modified August 20, 2011 at 9:14 PM\



  1. pathos
    How does Gov. Gregoire's veto of critical parts of the legalization bill in April effect MM? (in WA) I ask because my pain doc is a pro-mm and I have considered it. Far less addictive than the meds I am on. This article demonstrates the quagmire this state faces, different interpretations of the law and how it is enforced in WA presently.

    Nixing far more of a medical-marijuana bill than she had telegraphed that she would, Governor Chris Gregoire vetoed nearly every section of an omnibus bill today that was intended to clarify a messy tangle of ambiguities in a 13-year-old law for sick people and their care providers. Arrest protection for patients (who can currently be arrested and only raise a defense in court), cultivation licenses, and dispensaries were all scratched by the governor. In explaining her decision, Gregoire reiterated her concern that the bill's edict to license dispensaries would subject state Department of Health employees to federal prosecution. But, in addition to vetoing dispensaries, she ultimately removed a patient registry and its ensuing arrest protection because it "is intertwined with the other parts of the bill," she said in her Capitol Building office.
    • Photo by Cienna Madrid
    • Gregoire: "I am accutely aware of how important this is for medical patients."

    What's left is "window dressing," said Alison Holcomb, the drug policy director of the ACLU of Washington.
    Gregoire added a twist to her familiar argument—that federal charges "would" be raised against state employees, an argument that has been roundly debunked—by saying, "The landscape is changing." She cited letters from federal prosecutors in Rhode Island, Colorado, and Oakland in recent months similar to one issued in Washington this month.
    Gregoire was resolute. "We cannot assure protection to patients in a way that subjects another group to prosecutions," she said. "That is not acceptable to me." Asked three times if she had any example of a state employee being prosecuted for administering one of the many medical-marijuana licensing programs in the US, Gregoire said, "No, no, no."
    Her position was immediately denounced. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes announced that Gregoire's argument was a "red herring at best" and added, “I am profoundly disappointed that at the 11th hour and 59th minute Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed the central operative sections of the medical cannabis legislation." Meanwhile, Mayor Mike McGinn said in a statement that the veto would "leave us with the same problems that we currently face: too many patients have to take unnecessary risks to obtain their medicine, confusion for law enforcement, a proliferation of dispensaries across Seattle, and an inability to regulate dispensaries properly."
    What remains in the bill? Permission for patients to grow up to 45 plants in collectives of up to 10 people. Gregoire said her veto allowed 20 days for the legislature to pass another medical marijuana bill—perhaps one that allowed for arrest protection.
    Wearing disdain in her expression, Gregoire insisted that she hadn't vetoed the bill as an appeal for future work with the Obama Administration but was based on her—again, frivolous—argument that state workers would be prosecuted. "This is about me being the governor of the state of Washington," she insisted. "It has nothing to do with me or my future or anything else."
    Holcomb, who is also a former defense attorney handling medical-marijuana cases, is intimately familiar with the current medical marijuana law and the memo issued by federal prosecutors. She says the landscape hasn't changed. "On the one hand, Gregoire wants to provide patients safe access to medical cannabis. But on the other hand, she offers an excuse for gutting the legislation that holds no water."
    "What is concerning to me is Gregoire's repeated statement that patients would remain exempt from prosecution," Holcomb continues. "Under state law, that has never been the case. By stripping out the regulatory section... patients continue to be subject to arrest and prosecution under state law."
    Is there any hope that a Democratic governor wouldn't veto a bill so broad?
    Dow Constantine, the King County Executive who may run for governor next year, "supports the purposes of the bill," says his spokesman Frank Abe. "He agrees we need to bring the production and distribution of medical marijuana above ground and into the light of day."

    This is from "The Stranger" no link provided. http://slog.thestranger.com posted by Dominic Holden April 29,2011
  2. CaptainTripps
    State investigates workers who OK'd medical marijuana at Hempfest

    State health-care regulators have opened a preliminary investigation into two medical professionals who were issuing medical-marijuana authorizations at Hempfest.

    The investigation was self-initiated by the Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday based on an Aug. 21 story in The Seattle Times, which described a reporter's ability to get a medical-marijuana authorization based on complaints of back pain.

    Tim Church, a DOH spokesman, declined to name the two health-care professionals, but said the state's naturopathic advisory committee had opened a complaint. "It was opened as a result of media reports," he said.

    After an initial investigation into the two individuals, DOH will decide whether to close the case or proceed with a fuller probe and possibly to a disciplinary hearing, Church said. "Anytime we see something that could be outside the scope of a medical professional's license, we take a look at it," he said.

    The DOH has not taken action against a medical professional for authorizing medical marijuana in the 13-year history of the law allowing it. But the proliferation of specialty medical cannabis clinics over the past two years has increased concern that patients are being authorized for conditions not in the state law

    . By Jonathan Martin
    Seattle Times staff reporter
    Originally published Friday, September 2, 2011 at 11:58 AM


    Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or jmartin@seattletimes.com
  3. CaptainTripps
    Charges filed against naturopaths for marijuana authorizations at Hempfest

    [​IMG]Dimitrios Jimmy Magiasis

    The state Department of Health has charged two naturopaths with unprofessional conduct for operating an “assembly line” practice of authorizing medical marijuana at last year’s Hempfest.

    The charges, filed Tuesday, appear to be the first disciplinary action taken against a state medical professional for a medical marijuana authorization, said Tim Church, a DOH spokesman. The two naturopaths, Carolyn Lee Bearss and Dimitrios Jimmy Magiasis were featured in a Seattle Times story, last August in which a reporter received a medical marijuana authorization for $150 at a Hempfest tent. Bearss recommended marijuana as treatment for the reporter’s lower-back pain without seeing medical records after an appointment that lasted 11 minutes.

    The naturopaths were independent contractors for a company owned by 4Evergreen Group, one of the largest regional clinics specializing in medical marijuana authorizations.

    During Hempfest, the two naturopaths saw a combined 216 patients and recommended marijuana for 214 of them, according to the DOH charges against Bearss and Magiasis. The charges accuse the naturopaths of stretching the definition of “intractable pain” – one of the qualifying conditions under the state medical cannabis law — and of failing to explore other treatment options, as also required. “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.

    The state medical marijuana law protects medical professionals from criminal or disciplinary charges if they follow a set of rules, including completing an exam and documenting other ways used to treat “the terminal or debilitating medical condition” other than marijuana.

    Posted by Maureen O'Hagan

    August 7, 2012 at 12:32 PM

  4. CaptainTripps
    Hempfest naturopath's pot authorization leads to state suspension

    A naturopath lost her license to practice medicine for two years for improperly doling out medical-marijuana authorizations at last year's Hempfest in Seattle. If Carolyn Lee Bearss wants her credentials reinstated, she must also pay a $50,000 fine — higher than the typical fine due to the egregiousness of the conduct, said Department of Health spokesman Tim Church.

    The suspension order said her practice at Hempfest was an "assembly line" that "failed to meet the standard of care." It was "designed to quickly move patients through, charge them money, give them their authorization, and get ready for the next one," Church said. "That's not how patients should be treated." He noted that of the 106 patients Bearss saw that weekend, 105 received authorizations, at $150 to $200 each.

    At the time, she was working as a contractor for 4 Evergreen Group, a Seattle clinic that specializes in medical-marijuana authorizations. Bearss maintains she did nothing wrong: that she was practicing sound medicine, following the medical-cannabis laws and treating patients according to their needs. She maintains, as well, that there are no specific standards of practice for naturopaths in Washington. "Rather than setting standards, I feel myself and my colleagues are being used as examples," she said. "It's backward. It's not judicious."

    She said she wasn't able, financially, to fight the charges. She has since moved to Canada. According to the suspension order, Bearss averaged less than 15 minutes with each patient at Hempfest; she used boilerplate language in her charts and did not recommend further tests to nail down diagnoses.
    Under Washington law, doctors may authorize marijuana only for patients who have "terminal or debilitating" medical conditions such as AIDS, seizure disorders or "some forms of intractable pain." Another naturopath, Dimitrios "Jimmy" Magiasis, was charged with misconduct by the Health Department at the same time as Bearss, under similar circumstances.

    Of the 110 patients he saw at Hempfest, 109 walked away with an authorization. His case is still pending.
    They were the first Washington medical providers facing disciplinary action in connection with writing marijuana authorizations.

    By Maureen O'Hagan
    Seattle Times staff reporter Originally published November 8, 2012 at 8:25 PM | Page modified November 9, 2012 at 6:56 AM
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