Berkeley Pot Doctor Alleges Judge is Biased
March 27, 2004
A Berkeley psychiatrist who has prescribed medical marijuana for more than 7,000 patients said today he is asking that a judge's ruling against him be set aside because he believes the judge is biased against marijuana use.
Dr. Tod Mikuriya said administrative law Judge Jonathan Lew concealed the fact that he is associated with a religious outreach group whose members reportedly believe that marijuana enslaves people.
Mikuriya's lawyer, Susan Lea of Stinson Beach, has asked the Medical Board of California to reopen Mikuriya's case, alleging that the judge failed to disclose material evidence of bias and prejudice. Lea wants Lew's ruling to be set aside and a new hearing to be held.
In a letter to the board Thursday, Lea said, 'The extent of Judge Lew's bias was so powerful that the hearing itself was a meaningless exercise.''
On March 18, the state board approved Lew's Jan. 30 ruling, which said Mikuriya, 70, should be disciplined for gross negligence for failing to properly examine his patients before prescribing cannabis.
In the ruling, which is to take effect April 19, Lew placed Mikuriya on five years of probation, ordered that his practice be monitored by another physician and ordered him to pay the board and the state attorney general's office $75,000 for the cost of prosecuting him.
The judge also said Mikuriya can't see patients at an office in the basement of his house in the Berkeley hills, for which he's had a use permit since 1970.
However, the sanctions don't include suspension or revocation of his license or a requirement that Mikuriya attend remedial classes.
Lew said Mikuriya made 'extreme departures from the standard of care'' in his treatment of 17 patients, including a narcotics agent who posed as a patient.
Lew made his ruling following a six-day hearing at the state building in Oakland in September and the submission of briefs by the attorney general's office and lawyers for Mikuriya.
The psychiatrist began prescribing medical marijuana for his patients after the passage of state Proposition 215 in 1996. The measure legalized growing and using marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor's recommendation.
Mikuriya said during the hearing last year that among the conditions of those who have come to see him are migraine headaches, depression, alcoholism, insomnia and brain damage.
He said today that 'no patient complained about my services and no family complained.''
The complaints against Mikuriya all came from rural county prosecutors and sheriffs. Mikuriya and his attorneys believe they resent him for issuing approvals for medical marijuana.
'They're sorehead criminal justice entities,'' Mikuriya said.
The psychiatrist said the attorney general's office challenged the first judge assigned to his case and he would have challenged Judge Lew, the second judge, if he had known that Lew serves as an adviser and board member to Folsom-based Powerhouse Ministries, a group that works with prison inmates.
'The fix was in,'' Mikuriya said.
The group's Web site has a section on substance abuse that says, 'Nobody likes slavery. And no one wants to be a slave. Yet, every day in our community people 'awake' to find out that they have become enslaved to some substance.''
The section continues, 'For some it's marijuana, for others crank or alcohol or all three! Most start the same way, they just want to have a good time. They never dreamed that having a little bit of 'fun' would end up like this.''
Lea said in a letter to Dr. Ronald Wender, the chair of the medical board's division of medical quality, that Powerhouse's position on marijuana 'demonstrates profound bias against its use'' and that Lew never disclosed 'his belief in and involvement'' with the group.
She attached the group's medical abuse statement as an exhibit.
Candis Cohen, a spokeswoman for the medical board, said the same board that approved Lew's ruling would decide whether Mikuriya's request for a new hearing should be granted or denied.
She also said Mikuriya can appeal Lew's ruling to a superior court judge or state appellate court at any time.
Lew wasn't available for comment today, nor were officials from Powerhouse Ministries.