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'MARIJUANA DOCTOR' GETS PROBATION, $5,000 FINE

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The420Guy

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The Molalla doctor who has signed at least half of the state's medical
marijuana applications will lose his medical license for 90 days, then
be allowed to resume his practice under an order pending before state
medical regulators.

The order, which still must be ratified by the Board of Medical
Examiners, would place Dr. Phillip Leveque on 10 years of probation,
during which time his medical license would be revoked if he violates
the terms of the deal.

Leveque would pay a $5,000 fine, be suspended from practicing medicine
for 90 days starting May 1, and be required to follow accepted standards
of medical care when signing for medical marijuana patients.

For instance, before signing, he must review patients' medical records;
conduct a medical history and physical exam; meet the patients in person
to discuss the diagnosis and risks and benefits of treatment options;
provide a written treatment plan; and maintain medical records.

The order also requires Leveque to report in person for an interview
with the board at each of its quarterly meetings.

Leveque, an osteopath, said he signed the order on Wednesday, and on
Friday he faxed copies to news organizations under a headline of his
own: "Marijuana doctor punished for dishonorable conduct for helping
2000 sick patients."

Kathleen Haley, the board's executive director, said Friday she couldn't
comment on the order because it hasn't been ratified by the board. The
board meets next Thursday and Friday for its regularly scheduled
quarterly meeting.

In a telephone interview, Leveque called the board's punishment
"draconian" and maintained he has done nothing wrong.

"The people who are being punished are my patients," he said.

Leveque said he was simply following the rules as set forth in Oregon's
ground-breaking medical marijuana law and explained to him by state
health officials. And he thought he was protected by a sentence in the
law that prohibits the Board of Medical Examiners from disciplining
doctors who participate in the program.

In January, the board charged Leveque with unprofessional conduct and
ordered him to undergo psychological and physical exams to determine his
competency to practice medicine. Board members said his practice of
medicine was below the "standard of care" required of Oregon physicians.

In its complaint, the board said Leveque signed medical marijuana
applications "without examining the patient, conducting medical tests,
maintaining an adequate medical chart, reviewing possible
contraindications or conferring with other medical care providers."

Leveque and his attorney requested a hearing before an independent
hearings officer to contest the charges. Instead, the board's staff sent
him the proposed order imposing discipline.

Leveque said he agreed to sign the order because, "If I didn't they'd
revoke my license."

This isn't the first time Leveque has been in trouble with state medical
regulators. In 1981 and 1984, after board investigations, Leveque
voluntarily agreed to stop prescribing drugs to patients. In 1986, he
was placed on a 10-year probation, ordered to close his private practice
and barred from prescribing drugs because of what the board said was
improper treatment of pain.

He first heard about using marijuana to treat pain when he was under
pressure to limit the amount of pain medication he prescribed.

"The patients said, 'That's OK doc, we're using marijuana, and it's just
as good as your stuff,' " Leveque said last year in an interview.

Soon after the state's medical marijuana law took effect in 1999,
patient advocacy groups heard about Leveque and began referring
prospective patients from all over Oregon to him.

Leveque said he had a "moral obligation" to sign for patients and
handled so many applications only because other doctors refused.

Todd Dalotto, director of the Compassion Center, a Eugene patient
advocacy center, said the board's discipline against Leveque was "an
injustice."

"It wouldn't have gotten this attention if he hadn't been the attending
physician for such a large number of patients," Dalotto said. "But he
wouldn't have had this large load of patients if it weren't for the
several thousand other physicians who hadn't signed."

After The Register-Guard first reported on Leveque and the high
proportion of applications he'd signed last year, state public health
officials changed the medical marijuana program's rules to require
doctors to conduct physical exams and keep medical records on every
patient they signed for. Previously, Leveque had just consulted with
some patients on the telephone after reviewing their medical records.

By his own count, Leveque has signed close to 2,000 applications for
medical marijuana patients.

Oregon's medical marijuana law permits people with certain specified
illnesses and symptoms to smoke, grow and possess marijuana as a long as
a doctor says the drug could help them.

Doctors can either sign an application created by state health officials
or write a note in the patient's medical chart, which the patient
submits to the state medical marijuana office.

A completed application and a $150 annual fee gets the patient a
laminated card that effectively exempts him or her from state marijuana
laws, as long as they don't grow or possess marijuana in excess of state
limits.


Pubdate: Sat, 13 Apr 2002
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Copyright: 2002 The Register-Guard
Contact: rgletters@guardnet.com
Website: Breaking local news, news updates, sports, business and weather | Eugene, Oregon
 
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