Marijuana doctor loses license

October 19, 2004

Andrew Kramer, Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The doctor who signed a third of all medical marijuana cards in Oregon lost his license to practice medicine on Wednesday, in what medical regulators and advocates for the drug say marked the first such case in the nine states where marijuana is legal as a medicine.

Dr. Phillip Leveque, 81, a Molalla osteopath, was placed on probation in 2002 for signing medical marijuana applications for patients he had not examined in person and whose medical history he had not reviewed.

Leveque's practice was limited to examining patients for medical marijuana applications, often at large gatherings at hotels around the state.

He also hosted a cable access television show called 'Ask Dr. Leveque,' in which callers would check to see if their ailments would qualify them for a medical marijuana card.

Leveque said he has signed some 4,000 applications, 33 percent of the 12,000 cards issued in the state.

The Oregon Medical Board objected. In one case, investigators said, Leveque recommended medical marijuana for a 14-year-old girl with a history of depression. He had also signed cards for people who sent a description of their medical problem to him by fax.

The board suspended Leveque's license in March for failing to abide by a 2002 probationary agreement to sign cards only after conducting physicals and reviewing medical records. At an October 15 meeting, the board decided to revoke his license; Leveque was notified of the decision Wednesday.

'They can't go after the patients, so they're going after the doctors,' Leveque said. He said he would appeal the decision.

The board also fined Leveque $5,000 and will bill him for the cost of a court hearing, said Kathleen Haley, executive director of the Oregon Medical Board.

Haley said she knew of no other case of a doctor losing a license for practices related to medical marijuana.

'The board does want patients to have adequate pain control,' Haley said. 'At the same time, they want to be sure the physician is upholding their responsibility to be sure of the diagnosis.

'It's a sad day when you have to revoke a license after a long career.'

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based group which advocates greater access to medical marijuana, said he has never heard of a doctor losing his license in such a way. He said, however, that roughly a dozen doctors in California are being investigated because of their marijuana recommendations.

Medical marijuana advocates criticized the board's decision, saying medical regulators are more strict with doctors who recommend marijuana than with those who prescribe other drugs.

'There's a problem when a lot of physicians are afraid or uneasy,' said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Washington-D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. 'A small number of doctors are willing to stick their neck out. It becomes a difficult situation for all.'

Besides, said Oregon medical marijuana advocate John Sajo, Dr. Leveque never had a single complaint from his thousands of patients.

'Dr. Leveque didn't hurt any patients. And he never had any complaints, which is the typical reason a doctor is disciplined,' Sajo said.

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