WENATCHEE — First Omak, now Wenatchee.
Best Medical Consultation of Spokane planned to be at the Red Lion in Wenatchee on Saturday to issue medical marijuana cards to patients who qualify.
The clinic came to Omak in November at the request of two medical marijuana patients who are facing charges for growing pot on their property. Okanogan County Prosecutor Karl Sloan said they were growing more plants than allowed by law.
The clinics, he said, are highly profitable ventures designed to make money, not treat patients.
“What may be a good and useful tool for people who are really sick — many people are abusing that, bottom line, for profit,” he said.
The doctor spends a few minutes with each patient, looking over their medical records to determine if they can legally smoke pot, and then authorizes those who qualify, he said. “If a doctor was doing that with Prozac, they would probably lose their license immediately,” Sloan said.
“Most of the medical marijuana certifications are originated by a very few doctors and clinics statewide, who are not a patient’s normal treating physician,” he said. “You don’t see many actual physicians recommending medical marijuana.”
Donn Moyer, spokesman for the state Department of Health, said the state does not track how many or which doctors issue medical marijuana cards, due to doctor-patient confidentiality. The state also does not know how many people have a medical marijuana card in Washington.
“A doctor-patient relationship is supposed to exist, and that takes more than 15 minutes in a hotel conference room,” he said. “The law was made by an initiative petition, and often those don’t take into account a lot of things, so that leaves them up to interpretation. Dispensaries are not legal either, but people are doing it,” he said.
He said marijuana is still illegal in Washington. The law only gives patients a legal defense if they are caught with marijuana.
Justin Pitts, a spokesman for Best Medical Consultation, said the clinics were set up in Omak and Wenatchee because many patients in rural areas can’t find a local doctor who will write medical marijuana authorization.
That’s not because other doctors don’t believe marijuana has any medical benefits, he said, but because they worry it could jeopardize federal funding they receive. Under federal law, marijuana is a Schedule 1 narcotic, meaning there are no medical uses for it.
“We’ve had referrals (from other doctors) because they don’t want to put their name on it,” he said.
Dr. David Weber, retiring chairman and CEO of the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center, said in an e-mail that he doesn’t think any of the medical center’s doctors are issuing medical marijuana cards. “There is too much controversy and uncertainly surrounding the topic for anyone to want to do so,” he wrote.
He said the medical center doesn’t know whether it would face any federal penalties if its doctors issued medical marijuana certifications, but it’s not worth the risk to find out.
Weber hasn’t sufficiently researched the medical uses of marijuana, or the risks of using it, to discuss those aspects, he said.
According to state law, people with a terminal illness, chronic pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma and other diseases can be legally treated with marijuana.
Pitts said the clinic’s staff screens patients before they ever see the doctor to find out if they may have a condition that could be helped by marijuana.
Wenatchee Police Sgt. John Kruse said his agency had no plans for extra patrols Saturday, and did not anticipate any problems from the medical marijuana clinic.
“If they have a doctor who’s going to be issuing cards in accordance with the law, that’s their business,” he said.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512