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State urges caution toward 'medical cannabis clinics'

Regulators file formal complaint against Chicago doctor

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[December 20, 2013]  CHICAGO As the state of Illinois prepares to implement the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation urges both physicians and members of the public to be cautious about setting up or visiting so-called medical cannabis clinics.

"Unlike some states, Illinois law does not allow for 'medical cannabis clinics' or practices that exist solely to offer cannabis certifications," said Manuel Flores, acting secretary of the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. "We want to make sure that patients who would truly benefit from the relief of medical cannabis are not misled and physicians are not violating the law."

The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act does not take effect until Jan. 1, and rules for administration of the act have yet to be finalized. The rules will not be adopted until the winter of 2014. Extreme caution should be exercised toward any entity or individuals touting their ability to help with compliance with the act or offering services in furtherance of obtaining medical cannabis before rules are adopted.

The act permits only a physician who has a bona fide physician-patient relationship and is treating the patient's qualifying debilitating medical condition to certify the patient for use of medical cannabis. A physician may accept payment from a patient only for the fee associated with the required medical examination prior to certifying a patient for use of medical cannabis. Physicians cannot accept payment for the certification itself.

There is no specialty in medicine that treats all the various qualifying debilitating medical conditions listed in the act. This means that one physician could not properly treat all patients eligible to use medical cannabis. Additionally, IDFPR would not consider a physician to be treating a patient for a condition if the only treatment being provided is a written authorization for the use of medical cannabis.

Any physician advertising as a "medical cannabis clinic" will immediately fall under the department's scrutiny. It may be appropriate for a specialist who treats one or more of the debilitating medical conditions to advertise that they are open to providing written authority. But, it is not appropriate for a physician to advertise that the purpose of the clinic is to provide such written authorization.

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As evidence of the state's vigilance with respect to medical cannabis, on Monday the IDFPR filed a formal complaint against Dr. Brian Murray, charging him with violating the Medical Practice Act while attempting to set up a medical cannabis clinic.

The complaint alleges that on the day Dr. Murray opened the "Good Intentions" clinic, he and a co-worker were offering potential patients "pre-approval" to obtain medical cannabis if they paid a $99 registration fee. Under the Medical Practice Act, such conduct is unprofessional as it is misleading.

During an on-site investigation of the clinic, IDFPR investigators found evidence of activity that appeared to be violations of the Medical Practice Act and, once the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act takes effect, would violate that law as well.

A copy of the complaint (PDF) is available at www.idfpr.com.

[Text from Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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