A New York physician with a reputation for treating patients with substance abuse problems was busted in Salina last month after a law enforcement surveillance detail allegedly caught her trading prescriptions for opioid cessation drugs for a few grams of weed.
A report from Syracuse.com indicates that Dr. Nancy C. Blake, a family practitioner, was taken into custody in July by the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office for her role in a black market drug exchange program in which she was providing people with prescriptions for Suboxone, a drug commonly use to help calm the withdrawal symptoms of those addicted to heroin and painkillers, in exchange for a personal stash of marijuana.
According to the charges filed in Salina Town Court, Blake is accused of meeting with a person by the name of Roxanne Parks at a local gas station sometime around the middle of last month where she apparently handed over a prescription for Suboxone and received nearly 14 grams of marijuana as compensation.
Although it is not known whether Blake was arrested immediately after the transaction or later, court records show that she was eventually charged with the criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance—a felony— as well as charged with fraud and deceit in connection with a controlled substance (a misdemeanor). She was also cited for marijuana possession.
Interestingly, Blake’s arrest last month took place almost a week prior to her serving out a state mandated probationary period that she received back in June for a separate drug-related violation.
A letter drafted by the New York State Board for Professional Medical Conduct (BPMC) shows that Blake received a censure and reprimand with two years probation for “negligence” after she pleaded no contest to prescribing several patients questionable combinations of narcotics and benzodiazepines. The terms of the probation gave her permission to “only practice medicine while being monitored by a licensed physicians; board certified in an appropriate specialty.”
While at face value, this story may sound like the apparent unraveling of a medical professional on a quest to use marijuana, it is really a reflection of the misguided policies we have in the United States in relation to how the federal government deals with controlled substances.
It is often difficult for people struggling with addiction to get their hands on Suboxone, a drug that has proven effective in the treatment of opioid addiction, because Uncle Sam restricts the number of patients a doctor can treat with this drug. Furthermore, it is almost always cheaper for those without insurance coverage to purchase it on the street.
The good news is that the availability of Suboxone is set to improve, to some degree, as the Department of Health and Human Services recently increased the patient cap from around 30-to-100 per year to a maximum of 275. But increasing access will not solve all of the problems. Statistically, the updated changes are only expected to help about 70,000 of the 2 million people struggling with addiction across the nation.
Sadly, the Syracuse.com article suggests that although Blake may have been able to survive her negligence charge for shelling out inappropriate combinations of prescription painkillers and tranquillizers, she didn’t seem to have much faith in continuing to operate a practice with a minor marijuana blemish on her record. In a recorded voicemail message, Blake says her office is now “permanently closed.”
Blake should have never been forced to make under the table deals to get her hands on a little weed—a substance that has been made legal in over half the nation. But the New York General Assembly has refused a number of proposals throughout the past several years aimed at establishing a taxed and regulated cannabis industry—one that would give professionals like Blake the opportunity to purchase marijuana in a safe environment without running the risk of career suicide through a violation of the law.