For many patients in the Illinois MCPP, Dr. Bodo Schneider is a hero. He was one of the very few doctors willing to recommend medical cannabis for patients in Illinois. He was the only doctor in southern Illinois who would sign paperwork. All the other doctors were barred by southern Illinois health systems from recommending medical cannabis. As a result, by the time the program was up and running, Dr. Schneider had signed paperwork for 2,000 of the 4,400 registered patients. This raised eyebrows as it was thought that Dr. Schneider was breaking the laws of the MCPP. Only a doctor with a bona fide doctor-patient relationship could legally recommend cannabis. The law has changed in that no recommendation is now needed. The doctor must verify that the patient has 1 of the 41 qualifying conditions AND a bona fide relationship. But, sadly, many doctors are still unwilling to sign paperwork for those seeking to apply to the program.
When I first became aware of Dr. Schneider, he was already under investigation by the Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (IDFPR) and the DEA, alleging improper controlled substance prescribing. He has been under investigation since 2015. He was accused of charging patients seeking access to the MCPP a fee for precertification without establishing a legitimate doctor-patient relationship. He was also accused of charging for visits in which he did no physical examination. This is a requirement for gaining access to the MCPP. He has denied all allegations, claiming that he followed all the rules of the MCPP.
In December, 2016, the state added 2 additional counts to the original complaint. Dr. Schneider was accused of inappropriately prescribing “embarrassingly high amounts of opioids” for 10 patients. It is alleged that they were neither examined nor monitored while taking these medications. Again, he denied all allegations. While not a criminal complaint, the state was seeking to suspend, revoke or reprimand his medical license.
I know several patients who wholeheartedly support Dr. Schneider. They described him as a compassionate doctor who wants to help patients replace dangerous opioids with medical cannabis. He did seem to have some staffing problems where patients consistently were unable to reach him or his staff by phone for days or even weeks. Most of his patients feel he has been unfairly targeted because he is willing to support the medical cannabis community. I know others who feel that Dr. Schneider was breaking the law and tarnished the reputation of the medical cannabis community.
Then, in February, Dr. Schneider announced that he was closing his Marion and Orland Park Clinics, the Pied Pfeifer Compassionate Care Clinic, where he saw medical cannabis patients. His reason for doing so was that “the business model has not lived up to forecast.” He intended to return to emergency medicine and apologized to his medical cannabis patients for any problems this caused them. He would open his clinics twice a year at both locations to help his current patients maintain their certification. A hearing was scheduled for March 7, 2017.
As of this writing, the state placed the medical license of Dr. Schneider on indefinite probation. In addition to his medical cannabis clinic, he also ran a pain management practice. He is no longer allowed to prescribe prescription pain medication per his consent agreement with the IDFPR. He is allowed to continue to see new and current patients enrolled in the MCPP. As part of his agreement, he must provide quarterly reports on his activities. Dr. Schneider has changed his mind about closing his clinics for medical cannabis patients. He received dozens of calls from patients who are very concerned about having to find a new doctor to maintain their medical cannabis cards. He intends to hold office hours once a week in Marion for new patients. These would be referrals by physicians who are restricted by their health systems from certifying patients. Let’s hope he keeps his word.
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