SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- The number of Oregonians with state approval to use
medical marijuana doubled this year, and, as one might expect, Dr. Phillip
Leveque has been signing a lot of the requests.

But he hasn't signed all of them, and much of the jump happened when the
semiretired osteopath from Molalla was under suspension for substandard
medical practice.

Oregon's Medical Marijuana Act, one of nine in the nation, was approved by
voters in 1998. A doctor must verify that the patient has a "debilitating
medical condition" such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or severe pain. The
patient pays an annual fee of $150.

Three-and-a-half years after the program started, 4,162 Oregonians have
cards allowing them to grow and use marijuana. In February, the total was
less than 1,700.

"Wow, that's amazing," said Gail Kelsey, who runs Colorado's medical
marijuana program. The Colorado plan, modeled after Oregon's, has amassed
181 cardholders in two years.

Oregon health officials can't explain the massive increase.

"Our numbers aren't telling us why," said Mary Leverette, acting manager of
Oregon's medical marijuana program, run by the Department of Human Services.

Leveque, 79, has authorized about 45 percent of Oregon's approved medical
marijuana applications. He said he has signed applications for about 750
patients since Aug. 1, when his suspension was lifted.

Since medical marijuana became legal in Oregon, Leveque estimates he's
signed about 2,500 applications. Most of the 950 Oregon physicians who have
endorsed a patient's request for medical marijuana have signed only one.

The Board of Medical Examiners suspended his license for 90 days on May 1
and fined him $5,000 for signing marijuana applications for patients he
never saw.

Under a signed order, Leveque agreed to follow accepted standards of care
when he resumed practice.

This week is typical of Leveque's schedule that caters to patients seeking
medical marijuana cards. Clinics on Sunday and Monday in Roseburg. A court
appearance in Roseburg on Tuesday in defense of a man accused of growing
marijuana illegally. More clinics Wednesday and Thursday in Medford. Two
clinics this weekend in Brookings. Back to Portland for another clinic Monday.

"Every patient I see says medical marijuana works better than (other) drugs
for them," Leveque said. "Would they lie to me about that? I don't think so."

Leveque said he spends about 20 minutes with each patient and charges
between zero and $50, depending on the patient's ability to pay. No private
or public insurance plan pays for medical marijuana use, he said.

"I'm not advocating marijuana," Leveque said. "I don't prescribe it. I
don't recommend it."

Nor does he use it himself, he said, though he has severe chronic pain in
his back, buttocks and legs. He takes nonprescription pain relievers and
Benadryl to help him sleep.

Pubdate: Fri, 01 Nov 2002
Source: Oregonian, The (OR)
Copyright: 2002 The Oregonian