MD: Annapolis Doctor In Marijuana Business Tied To Anne Arundel Opioid Lawsuit

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

An Annapolis physician entering the medical marijuana business has both personal and professional ties to a doctor being sued for overprescribing prescription opioids.

Dr. Susan Zimmerman is a part-owner of Kind Therapeutics USA LLC, which has opened medical marijuana growing and processing operations in Washington County and applied to open a dispensary near Annapolis. Zimmerman both practices with and is married to Dr. William Tham, who’s being sued by Anne Arundel County for allegedly selling overprescribing prescription opioids at his Annapolis pain management practice.

Tham founded Physical Medicine and Pain Management Associates in 1994, according to the company’s website. Zimmerman is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist out of its Annapolis location.

Tham is one of a handful of prescribers and doctors the county filed suit against in January for what they say was a practice of overprescribing opioids after being paid more than $100,000 by pharmaceutical companies during a two-year period.

While Tham and Physical Medicine and Pain Management Associates are both named in the suit, which has moved over to U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Zimmerman is not.

Zimmerman and Kind Therapeutics opened growing operation and processing sites in Hagerstown after approval from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, which reviews the state’s applications for all medical marijuana-related businesses.

The company also is applying to open up a dispensary and growing operations in Anne Arundel County, with a dispensary planned to be at 2061 Generals Highway in Annapolis.

A spokeswoman for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, which oversees applications for medical marijuana-related businesses, said the two applications for the Anne Arundel businesses have yet to be approved.

Approvals for the two Kind Therapeutics’ operations in Hagerstown were made before Anne Arundel County sued Tham, commission spokeswoman Jennifer White said. The commission would continue to monitor the situation, she said.

“These investigations included a state and federal criminal background check, drug screening and financial audits for owners and investors,” White wrote in an email. “At the time of these investigations, each owner provided their interest in the organization and successfully passed all background requirements.”

She added a “senior enforcement and compliance officer” with the commission “is watching this situation to insure all activities and participants are in compliance with the commission’s regulations.”

A spokesman for Tham declined to comment. Zimmerman could not be reached for comment.

The allegations against Tham are some of the most extensive in a Circuit Court lawsuit filed by the county, depicting the doctor as one who engages in a pattern of “improper and excessive prescribing,” particularly of Subsys, a spray for the synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

Attorneys for the county allege Tham was someone manufacturers knew by name, saying five prescription opioid manufacturers paid him more handsomely than anyone else in the county. The level of which “constituted over 80 percent of payments made to all doctors in Anne Arundel County during the August 2013 to December 2015 time period,” the suit reads.

The county alleges “80 (percent) of Defendant Tham’s patients filed at least one prescription for an opioid.”

It marks the second time the commission has been tasked with reviewing a lawsuit linked to one of the medical marijuana businesses seeking approval in Anne Arundel County.

Advanced Alternative Therapies, which is looking to open up a dispensary on West Street in Annapolis, is seeking approval while one of its co-owners, David Podrog, is the subject of a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination against Hispanic employees at his former car wash business.

Filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in August, the lawsuit claims that Podrog and his manager Kyle Decker used Hispanic workers as personal servants, requiring them to clean Podrog’s home and paying them less than other employees.

Advanced Alternative Therapies’ application is still pending approval from the commission as of Monday, White said.

An attorney for Podrog, Donna McBride, denied Podrog had done anything alleged by the EEOC in its lawsuit.

She added construction of the proposed site is being done independent of Advanced Alternative Therapies while it waits for final approval.