Unlicensed Practice of Medicine Although No Patients Seen?
S.C. and Andrew Cettei operated two Venice, California medical marijuana clinics, both on Ocean Front Walk. S.C. was the chief executive officer of Kush, Dr., LLC. Cetti apparently ran the business on a day-to-day basis, hiring doctors to see patients, who then gave out medical marijuana recommendations.Summary: Owners of Venice medical marijuana clinic may be charged with the unlicensed practice of medicine although they did not see patients.
In January, 2010, Medical Board Investigator Thomas Morris began an investigation of Kush, Dr., after receiving a formal written complaint that the two clinic locations were operating an illegal business.
Morris went to the two locations and met with the physicians who were seeing patients and issuing medical marijuana recommendations. Morris went to the examination rooms in both locations. Both rooms, Morris described in his report, were the size of a closet and had no examination table. Only one location’s examination room had running water. Both had only one item to conduct a medical examination; a blood pressure cuff.
As part of the investigation, The Medical Board also sent three undercover agents to the clinic to get medical marijuana recommendations. Before entering the clinic, the agents had to pass by people holding signs outside the clinic and telling passersby that they could “get legal.” None of the agents had any physical ailments.
One agent told the doctor he got headaches when he drank too much beer. Another said he had insomnia. Another said he had anxiety. They each were given a medical marijuana recommendation. When one of the agents disputed the amount he was charged, Cettei settled the amount. The agents were then told they could buy marijuana upstairs at a dispensary also owned by Cettei and S.C..
S.C. and Cettei were then prosecuted for violating Business and Professions Code § 2052 for practicing medicine without a license, a felony. S.C. and Cettei moved to dismiss the charge because neither treated any patients and merely provided management services. The trial court in the downtown Los Angeles Clara Shortridge Foltz courthouse dismissed the action.
The District Attorney then filed a writ of mandate, challenging the trial court’s ruling to the Second Appellate District.
The appellate court noted, in agreement with the District Attorney’s writ, that section 2052 makes it illegal for an unlicensed person to “practice… any system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted,” which would include “the operation of medical clinics to treat sick people by exclusively prescribing marijuana and selling it to them.”
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