DEA Pressures MA Doctors to Cut Ties With Medical Pot Companies

By Paul Gaita 06/13/14

Could this potentially be part of Michele Leonhart's ongoing efforts to stop legalization?

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The next step? Shutterstock

Agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have visited the homes of several Massachusetts doctors and informed them to end their associations with medical marijuana dispensaries or face the possibility of losing their license to prescribe certain medications.

A report from the Boston Globe reveals that DEA investigators have contacted at least seven Boston-area doctors and urged them to resign their positions at the companies, reportedly due to the conflict between federal standards regarding marijuana and state law which allowed medical use of the drug in 2012.

So far, two physicians have resigned their medical officer positions with dispensaries after visits from the agency, which has issued a statement regarding the situation that stated, in part, that “it is not unusual for the Drug Enforcement Agency to contact DEA registrants,” but balked on commenting on specific encounters between agents and medical professionals.

The news of the Massachusetts incidents comes at a precarious time for the medical marijuana industry. Though the House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would prevent the DEA from conducting raids on state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries, it remains unclear whether the bill also protects the doctors associated with dispensaries.

The state of medical dispensaries in Massachusetts is also in disarray; regulators have insisted that companies selected for provisional licenses would be open for business by the summer, but a host of legal snafus, including misrepresentation, have pushed back launch dates as background checks on various dispensaries are conducted. These investigations are expected to take even longer to complete now that DEA pressure is attempting to force physicians to resign their positions.

The medical professionals, too, are in a double bind because of the DEA investigations: physicians and other health care providers must obtain a license from the agency to prescribe narcotics and other controlled substances, including medical marijuana. Since many of the physicians connected with dispensaries have loaned substantial sums of money to the companies to cover operating costs, they face lawsuits from their business partners if they resign from their positions, which would include the revocation of their loans.

A lawyer for four of the doctors contacted by the DEA said that he was currently reviewing contracts and case laws, but admitted that the entire scenario is part of a “new era” in terms of legal recourse.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.