Florida Medical Cannabis Doctor Sues State Health Department

A Florida doctor who was targeted by the health department is suing for “grossly exceeding their authority” and $50,000 in damages.
Florida
Medical Marijuana

Florida-based medical cannabis doctor, Dr. Joseph Dorn, is suing state health officials for attempting to strip him of his medical license, prohibit him from prescribing medical cannabis, and charge him a $10,000 fine.

Dorn was the target of an investigation in 2018, where two undercover state health department agents were referred to as “Patient O.G.” and “Patient B.D.” made appointments posing as patients to investigate Dorn’s practice, according to Health News Florida. Both agents made claims that they suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which Dorn conducted a review and prescribed medical cannabis to ease those symptoms.

“The two undercover employees consulted with Dr. Dorn under their aliases, lied to his face, and were intentionally evasive so that they could obtain a medical marijuana recommendation from Dr. Dorn. Ultimately, Dr. Dorn recommended medical marijuana for both patients, believing that they qualified,” the lawsuit explained of the investigation.

Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins cleared Dorn of wrongdoing in March 2022, stating the Dorn has fully complied with state law. “The evidence of record undermines DOH’s argument that Dr. Dorn’s practice is nothing more than an ‘open gate’ to medical marijuana. In the case of both O.G. and B.D. (and presumably the other 28 patients examined), Dr. Dorn conducted a detailed and thorough assessment of the patient’s condition prior to prescribing medical marijuana,” Watkins wrote last year.

Now Dorn is suing the Florida State Health Department, as well as the two involved officers, for $50,000 in damages. The lawsuit claims that the agents “grossly exceeded their authority and violated state and federal law along the way,” and that the event caused Dorn to “[suffer] millions of dollars of damages due to loss of revenue and the damage to his reputation due to the actions and inactions.”

“Despite substantial testimony in the proceedings before the Florida Board of Medicine, no evidence whatsoever was found which would support a finding of probable cause for an action to revoke Dr. Dom’s medical license,” the lawsuit states.

Not only has Dorn been a practitioner in Florida for more than 30 years, but he was also one of Florida’s first physicians to prescribe medical cannabis to patients. This became possible when voters passed a constitutional amendment back in 2016. A law was also passed in 2017 to implement a foundation for the medical cannabis industry, including guidelines for patients and doctors.

The lawsuit claims that the health department agents did not provide any explanation as to why they targeted Dorn in the first place, according to Attorney Ryan Andrews. “The predicate for why they visited Dr. Dorn’s office unannounced was so lacking that calling it a ‘hunch’ would be gratuitous,” Andrews said. “DOH [Department of Health] had no basis to visit Dr. Dorn.”

Andrews called the investigation “indefensible.” “I can’t wait to hear their defenses, because I don’t think they have any,” he concluded.

While litigation on this case continues, the state of Florida continues to see a lot of progress both in medical cannabis and recreational cannabis. On April 10, regulators released new medical cannabis rules, which includes up to 22 retail medical cannabis licenses, and also increases the renewal fee required by all license holders every two years from the current fee of $60,000 to more than $1 million.

Advocates with Smart and Safe Florida are hard at work collecting signatures to add a recreational cannabis amendment to the ballot in 2024. So far, they’ve gathered more than 420,000 of the required 891,589 signatures to be placed on the ballot. The signature collecting campaign began in 2022, and has received a large amount of funding from companies such as Trulieve, which provided $5 million.

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