Second pot doc suspended, raising enforcement questions

Printed from:

BOSTON – State regulators have reportedly suspended a second Massachusetts physician over prescribing medical marijuana, saying that more than 4,600 of the certificates needed to obtain the drug legally were issued in his name.

That means suspended Dr. Tyrone S. Cushing, a Newton resident, accounted for more than 15 percent of all the nearly 30,000 certificates issued since April of last year, just before the first medical marijuana dispensary opened in the state, according to state records.

Cushing’s medical license was suspended late Thursday by the state Board of Registration in Medicine, WFXT-TV reported. It said the regulators found that Cushing hadn’t examined a single patient before doling out the certificates and indicated that he had provided the third-highest number of the documents out of the 149 doctors who can prescribe the drug. WCVB-TV reported that Cushing only practiced two days a week at the clinic.

Cushing was the second doctor to have his license suspended over issuing the certificates in barely a week. On May 26, the board took action against Dr. John C. Nadolny, medical director of Canna Care Docs clinics, saying he had accounted for 5,792 certificates to buy cannabis products, or about a fifth of all those issued.

The suspensions raise questions about how the state polices doctors and clinics that provide the needed certifications to buy marijuana, which is classified as an illegal controlled substance under federal law. The issue is gaining visibility as a push gains steam to legalize retail sales of pot to consumers 21 and over. Voters may be presented with a ballot question in November to authorize regulating marijuana like alcoholic beverages.

Cushing was affiliated with CannaMed’s Framingham office, according to the Fox25 report and a story in the Boston Globe. But the company’s website on Friday didn’t list him as one of the doctors who consult with patients there. CannaMed is a California company with three clinics there in addition to the Framingham location.

A probe of a fatal car wreck on the Massachusetts Turnpike in which State Police Trooper Thomas Clardy died linked the alleged driver, David Njuguna of Webster, to a Canna Care Docs clinic. Prosecutors said Njuguna had marijuana in his system when his vehicle struck the back of Clardy’s stopped cruiser.

Nadolny’s suspension order indicated that he delegated his nontransferable authority “to diagnose patients as having a debilitating medical condition” to nurse practitioners. Such a finding by a licensed physician is required before a person can obtain legal permission buy cannabis products from a dispensary.

State law holds that doctors can only issue marijuana cards “in the course of a bona fide physician-patient relationship,” which is defined under the law as “a relationship between a certifying physician (acting in the usual course of professional practice) and a patient, in which the physician has conducted a clinical visit, completed and documented a full assessment of the patient’s medical history and current medical condition, has explained the potential risks and benefits of the marijuana use, and has a role in the patient’s ongoing care and treatment.”

“A certifying physician cannot delegate to any other healthcare professional or other person the authority to diagnose the qualifying patient as having a debilitating medical condition,” the law reads.

Canna Care has eight clinics in Massachusetts and operates in four other states, including Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine.