Florida Doctor Faces Permanent Medical Cannabis Ban

Florida physician Joseph Dorn is facing penalties, including a $10,000 fine and a five-year suspension, after failing to assess patients.
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A physician in Tallahassee, Florida is staring down significant penalties from the state after allegedly failing to adequately assess patients before ordering them medical cannabis, according to local news reports

The News Service of Florida reported on Monday that the state’s Department of Health is proposing a host of tough penalties against the doctor, Joseph Dorn, including a permanent ban from ordering medical cannabis for patients, a $10,000 fine, and a five-year suspension of his medical license.

Health officials recommended the penalties to Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins, who “held a hearing in Dorn’s case in October [and] is weighing proposed recommended orders submitted Thursday by the health department and Dorn’s lawyer, Ryan Andrews,” according to the report.

Dorn finds himself in the predicament after an investigation that reportedly “included undercover agents posing as patients.”

The state is accusing Dorn, whose medical practice in the Sunshine State spans three decades, of neglecting to conduct examinations of two of those undercover patients––referred to as “Patient O.G.” and “Patient B.D.” in the complaint––potentially putting him in violation of “a 2017 law requiring physicians to use certain procedures before determining patients are eligible for medical marijuana, such as deciding that its use would outweigh potential health risks,” the report from the News Service of Florida explained.

“Instead of recognizing this responsibility, respondent (Dorn) used his designation as a qualified physician to liberally qualify patients to receive medical marijuana by only performing perfunctory consultations and ignoring many of the requirements imposed by the legislature,” wrote the attorneys for the Department of Health in their recommended order, as quoted by the report.

But Andrews, Dorn’s lawyer, contends that the state has “offered no evidence whatsoever to support its allegation,” and says that the agency does “not know what the health benefits or risks are of medical marijuana.”

“Ironically, the only trick or scheme employed in this case was that of petitioner (the agency), by intentionally sending B.D. and O.G. to Dr. Dorn to trick him into ordering medical marijuana for B.D. and O.G. based on their presentation of unlawful falsehoods concerning their qualifying conditions (i.e., PTSD and anxiety, inter alia),” Andrews wrote in his recommendations, as quoted by the News Service of Florida.

The case comes at a time when lawmakers in Florida are considering a slate of proposals intended to bolster access to the state’s medical cannabis program.

Andrew Learned, a Democratic state House representative in Florida, introduced a bill last month at the start of the legislative session that “would reduce costs for people by requiring fewer doctor’s visits, allow patients to keep their registration cards for two years instead of one, and give people the option to use telehealth to refill their prescriptions,” according to a local news report.

The bill also aims to establish regulations on products such as Delta-8, the hemp extract that can yield a high similar to cannabis. 

Learned billed the legislation as the “first bipartisan marijuana package we’ve really run as a state in five years since the constitutional amendment passed.” 

“This does things like, again, like keeping harmful products out of the hands of children, it’s making sure that we clean up advertising statues so we aren’t inadvertently advertising medical marijuana products in general to minors,” Learned said at the time. “It’s improving the program from a practical use perspective like I said with telehealth but also things like DUI testing and creating testing councils for that. Making sure products are safe and that a hemp product for example, like a CBD really is a CBD. Right now there’s no testing requirement pre-sale.”

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