DENVER – A Durango doctor and three other physicians accused of abusing the medical marijuana system plan to petition the Colorado Supreme Court after a lower court declined to lift suspensions on their medical licenses.
The late Friday ruling from Denver District Court Judge Ross Buchanan comes as a blow to the doctors – including Deborah Parr of Durango – who thought they made progress Thursday, when the judge agreed to reconsider his original decision not to lift the suspensions. The doctors were suspended in July for allegedly recommending higher-than-normal plant counts for medicinal purposes to hundreds of patients.
Buchanan struggled with the case, compelled by arguments from the doctors’ attorneys, who underscored that the physicians had not violated any medical marijuana laws or rules.
The attorneys argued that the Colorado Medical Board would have illegally created a rule in secret, as the doctors had never been notified.
The crux of the argument was that the medical board was acting arbitrarily.
The Colorado Medical Board stated that recommendations for plant counts in excess of 75 is “below generally accepted standards of medical practice and lacks medical necessity,” unless the diagnosis being treated is cancerous in nature.
The standard plant count for a medical marijuana patient is six.
While Buchanan last Thursday appeared to be compelled by the arguments, he decided that he did not have the jurisdiction to rule in the case. He believes the doctors must first exhaust the administrative process, which includes a board appeal and a hearing before an administrative law judge.
“This court cannot conclude that it is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that further administrative review by the Medical Board would be futile because the agency would not provide the relief requested,” Buchanan wrote.
Attorneys for two of the doctors – including Parr – say they will petition the Colorado Supreme Court to hear the case, as they have doubts with the medical board.
“Dr. Parr is disappointed that the court felt it did not have jurisdiction to decide these important issues. She nonetheless appreciates the court’s thoughtful consideration and its recognition that the summary suspension procedure is ‘draconian,’ ‘smacks of a violation of due process’ and that ‘these concerns are particularly acute under the circumstances of this case,’” read a statement from attorneys Carmen Decker and Kari Hershey.
Attorneys for the state agreed that the doctors did not violate a medical marijuana rule or law. But the Department of Regulatory Agencies, which oversees the medical board, pointed out that the physicians were suspended for violations of the Medical Practice Act.
In the board’s opinion, recommending at least 75 marijuana plants for a patient in the absence of cancer falls below generally accepted standards and is not medically necessary. DORA and the medical board considers that conduct to be a violation of law.
“The Panel found that the public health, safety, or welfare imperatively requires emergency action and/or that Respondent was guilty of a deliberate and willful violation of law,” states the Division of Professions and Occupations.
The board declined to comment on the ongoing lawsuit.