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CA: DOCTOR FRY CAN STILL WRITE MARIJUANA RECOMMENDATIONS

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When Dr. Marion P. Fry had her Drug Enforcement Administration registration
revoked late last year, some wondered if her ability to practice would be
limited. Others said she might be out of business completely.Fry, 42,
writes medical marijuana recommendations for patients who wish to qualify
under Proposition 215 to use the substance for treatment purposes. She and
her husband, attorney Dale Schafer, 48, run the California Medical Research
Center in Cool.

It turns out that while Fry can no longer write prescriptions for other
narcotics, her ability to write medical marijuana recommendations is not
threatened by the DEA's actions.

A DEA registration allows physicians to prescribe schedules II-IV
controlled substances, like codeine, methadone and anabolic steroids.

Marijuana is a schedule I controlled substance, according to the DEA, due
to its high potential for abuse, and lack of accepted medical use. But
because marijuana is a schedule I substance, it can't be prescribed.
Consequently, Fry's possession of a DEA registration, or lack thereof, has
no bearing on her ability to recommend medical marijuana.

Both state and federal officials previously stated that a doctor could no
longer write recommendations for marijuana if his or her DEA registration
were revoked.

The Mountain Democrat has since learned this to be untrue.

"Revocation of a DEA registration would not affect a physician's ability to
recommend medical marijuana as long as the physician recommends marijuana
in the same manner as he or she would any other prescribable drug," said
Candice Cohen, from the State Medical Board, the entity that licenses
physicians.

A representative from the DEA's office issued a similar statement.

A doctor's ability to recommend marijuana stems from Proposition 215,
passed by California voters in 1996. The initiative allows patients to
lawfully use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

Other states that have passed similar laws include Alaska, Colorado,
Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Under Proposition 215, patients cannot be prosecuted under state law for
possessing or cultivating marijuana for medical purposes. Proposition 215
also protects doctors who write recommendations, like Marion Fry, from
being criminally punished under state law.

Doctors can be punished under federal law, however, if they help patients
obtain marijuana, or conspire with patients to violate federal drug laws.

That is what the federal government accused Fry and Schafer of doing. In a
December report, the DEA alleges that Fry and Schafer referred patients to
other marijuana dealers, and sold "pot growing kits," a federal violation
because it is illegal to sell drugs.

In 2001 the DEA raided CMRC and seized nearly 5,000 patient records. A
federal judge later ruled that the records were not protected by
attorney-client privilege and could remain in police hands for investigation.

The investigation prompted the DEA to revoke Fry's DEA registration in
December.

"The conduct of Dr. Fry and Mr. Schafer bears no resemblance to a
legitimate medical practice. Rather, it is more suggestive of persons
obtaining marijuana for personal use ... and engaging in the sale of
drugs," states a DEA report.

Fry and Schafer provide medical/legal consultations for patients wishing to
obtain medical marijuana. Fry writes recommendations and Schafer advises
clients of the legal implications of medical marijuana.

The DEA also alleges that Fry issued recommendations without giving clients
sufficient medical examinations, or sufficiently reviewing medical records.

Fry and Schafer deny the allegations, and no criminal charges against
either of them have been announced.

"Everything we did was in good faith compliance with California's medical
cannabis law and in cooperation with the sheriff and district attorney,"
states Dale Schafer in a letter to the Mountain Democrat.

Schafer was himself a candidate for DA in the 2002 primary.

Fry is a breast cancer survivor and has used marijuana to treat chemo
therapy-induced nausea, and several other ailments.

The raid of CMRC marked the first time federal agents targeted a state
medical marijuana facility since the passage of Prop. 215 in 1996.

In 2001 the Supreme Court ruled it was a violation of federal drug laws for
medical marijuana clubs to distribute the drug. Since then the DEA has
raided several "pot clubs" under that ruling.

The issue mirrors a larger conflict that puts state's rights at odds with
the federal government's strict stance on drugs.

States like California say they are constitutionally granted the power to
regulate medicine, and so should be able to enforce their own laws
pertaining to marijuana. The federal government argues that laws that help
patients obtain marijuana, even for treatment purposes, make it difficult
to enforce federal drug laws.



Published: January 29, 2003
Source: Mountain Democrat (CA)
Author: Ken Paglia, Staff Writer
Copyright: 2003 Mountain Democrat
Contact: <mailto:plakey@mtdemocrat.net> plakey@mtdemocrat.net
Website: <Mountain Democrat> Mountain Democrat
 
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