Physicians Following Michigan Medical Marihuana Laws May Still Face Federal Criminal Charges
While most of the media attention related to medical marihuana has been focused on employment issues and the location of marihuana dispensaries, a Michigan physician is also receiving some press because of criminal charges recently filed against her.
On April 15, 2011, as part of a Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") investigation into Dr. Ruth A. Buck's potential prescription drug crimes, the DEA also charged Dr. Buck criminally with aiding and abetting the distribution of marihuana.
The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, found at MCL 333.26421- 333.26430, does not allow physicians to prescribe marihuana, as it is a DEA Schedule 1 Controlled Substance. A Schedule 1 Controlled Substance is one that has high potential for abuse and currently has no accepted medical use in treatment. Instead, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act only allows physicians to provide written certifications of a patient's debilitating medical condition and provide that in "the physician's professional opinion, a patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the medical use of marihuana to treat or alleviate the patient's serious or debilitating medical condition or symptoms associated with the serious or debilitating medical condition." MCL 333.26424 (f).
Dr. Buck has written approximately 1,870 patient certifications, including certifications for a DEA confidential source and a DEA undercover agent. Neither the undercover agent nor the confidential source were patients of Dr. Buck and neither suffered from any debilitating medical conditions. Moreover, Dr. Buck never performed any medical tests on either person and did not even have medical equipment in the meetings with them.
While Dr. Buck's situation may be a clear-cut case of a bad actor, the DEA complaint against Dr. Buck noted that "regardless of Michigan law, the distribution, manufacture, and possession of marihuana is illegal under federal law." As this case shows, physicians who are writing certifications to patients with debilitating medical conditions within the confines of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act may still face charges under federal law.
If you have questions regarding the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act please call Foster Swift at 517-371-8100.
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