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Florida Doc Charged in Largest Medicare Scheme Ever Reported Involving Genetic Testing

By Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D.
On October 1, 2019, a Florida doctor was implicated in what federal investigators say is one of the largest health care fraud schemes ever charged. According to prosecutors, the doctor allegedly authorized genetic testing for patients he never met, in a state where he’s not licensed to practice.

The vast fraud scheme totaled $2.1 billion worth of false Medicare and Medicaid claims between July 2018 and January 2019. The physician is being charged in the United States District Court of New Jersey with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Alleged Fraudulent Genetic Testing.

Thirty-five separate defendants are now facing felony charges for their alleged participation in one of the largest health care fraud schemes ever investigated and charged. All defendants involved were somehow associated with telemedicine companies and cancer genetic testing laboratories, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) news release. Click here to read the DOJ press release in full and learn more about the case and all the defendants being charged.

According to the release, one of the defendants, the Florida doctor, submitted fraudulent orders for genetic tests to numerous clinical laboratories. He allegedly authorized his signature on patient documents to order tests for patients he had never met, seen, treated or evaluated. Additionally, according to an indictment filed by the District Court of New Jersey, this physician received about $5,000 a month for his role as Privy Health Lab’s medical director in Illinois. During this period, according to prosecutors, he falsely reported himself as the patients’ ordering physician so that he could sign orders for the genetic testing. In 2018 alone, Medicare paid clinical laboratories at least $4.6 million for genetic tests that he allegedly ordered in this manner.

The Gainesville doctor faces charges of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud following an investigation by the DOJ, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

To learn about a similar case of healthcare fraud dealing with genetic testing, click here to read part one and here to read part two of my blog series on a prior scam.

Innocent until Proven Guilty in a Court of Law.

We are writing this blog from information from several different media sources including those referenced below and a DOJ press release. It must be remembered that just as is consistently stated in the “Bad Boys” television series, “the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Health Care Fraud and Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical practices, clinical labs, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (ALfs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and others who may desire to file a qui tam, False Claims Act or whistleblower suit. We work with physicians, nurses and other professionals to investigate, document and file such cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented several doctors and other licensed health professionals as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases. Our attorneys are also available to defend physicians, medical groups and health care providers in qui tam or whistleblower cases.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Mavrakis, Emily. “Gainesville doctor charged for fraud over genetic testing.” The Gainesville Sun. (October 1, 2019). Web.

Villegas, Brianda. “Gainesville doctor charged in federal health care fraud case.” WCJB TV20. (October 1, 2019). Web.

U.S. Department of Justice, Press Release dated September 26, 2019, (https://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/pr/federal-health-care-fraud-takedown-northeastern-us-results-54-defendants-charged-and)

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and registered nurse. She practices with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-12-05T20:30:00-05:00December 5th, 2019|Categories: Colorado Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Doctor Sentenced to 40 Years For Alleged Interstate Pill Mill

By Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D.

On October 2, 2019, a physician in Virginia received a 40-year prison sentence for illegally prescribing more than half a million opioid pills over 19 months. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia handed down the sentence to Joel Smithers, who reportedly operated a “pill mill” out of Virginia, according to authorities. In addition to prison time, he was given an $86,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison time, according to court documents.

The sentence is lighter than it could have been. He was facing up to life in prison and a fine of more than $200 million, according to officials at the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ). Click here to view the court’s sentencing document in full.

The Alleged Interstate Pill Mill Operation.

In May 2019, Smithers was convicted by a jury on more than 859 federal drug charges, including one count of possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substances and one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances. Additionally, he was convicted on hundreds of counts of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose or beyond the bounds of medical practice.

When he opened his Virginia practice in 2015, officials said he prescribed controlled substances to “every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed.” Authorities say that he allegedly ran an operation that was less a medical practice and more an interstate drug distribution network.

Smithers was able to rake in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments before the search warrant was executed at his office on March 7, 2017. Click here to read the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia.

To learn about a similar case involving two Florida doctors, click here.


The Problems I See in This Case.

I tell you that I take issue with many of the cases of this sort. I do not know enough about the actual facts of this physician’s case, but I can comment generally based on other similar cases I have had in the past. The government, both state and federal, has come down like a hammer on individual physicians and pharmacists in its over-zealous campaign to crack down on opioids. Many physicians and pharmacists, just trying to do a good job and legitimately treat their patients, are being caught up and persecuted. Chronic pain patients, many of whom are disabled veterans or people injured on the job, are unable to find physicians to treat them anymore or, if they can, any pharmacists willing to fill their prescriptions.

All sorts of under-handed techniques are used to try to make a case against conscientious health professionals who are merely trying to do their jobs. These do include the tactic seen in the case we are reporting on, which I call “bean counting.” The government comes in and, instead of proving how many allegedly illegal prescriptions were written or how many patients the physician gave the prescriptions to, breaks these out into the number of pills. This greatly exaggerates the case and these large numbers alone make it look like the doctor (or pharmacist) is doing something wrong or extremely way out of the norm.

For example, if a patient was receiving a low dose of a pain killer, say 10 mg Oxycodone every 4 to 6 hours, prescribed for four times a day, the ordinary monthly prescription for this medication alone (and such patients rarely receive one type of medication alone) this equates to 120 pills per month. If 10 mg pills are not available and/or the prescription is filled with 5 mg pills, instead, this is 240 pills a month. A years’ worth is 1,440 pills or 2,880 pills for just one patient. If the physician has 50 similar patients, this is 72,000 pills or 144,000 pills a year that the physician is writing and a pharmacy or pharmacies are filling.

This does not seem extreme or unusual to me, at all, and these amounts are on the low side. Yet just as government agencies love to inflate the “street value” or contraband drugs they seize, they love to break down the number of opioids a physician writes so it seems to a layperson to be extraordinarily large. Furthermore, a pain management physician or any other kind of physician cannot survive with just 50 patients a month. It is far more likely for a physician to have a thousand (1,000) or more patients a month. I call this type of numerical exaggeration “bean counting.” But it has put a number of physicians and pharmacists in jail.

Judges should not allow such exaggerated numbers to be introduced into evidence in the absence of further information that places them in context. It is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant to do so.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, board of medicine cases and board of pharmacy cases regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Booker, Brakkton. “Doctor Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half A Million Opioid Doses.” NPR. (October 2, 2019). Web.

“Virginia doctor could get life in prison today for prescribing 500,000 opioid pills.” RTV6. (October 2, 2019). Web.

Almasy, Steve. “Virginia doctor who illegally prescribed 500,000 opioid pills sentenced to 40 years in prison.” CNN. (October 2, 2019). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and registered nurse. She practices with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-11-06T20:48:18-05:00November 6th, 2019|Categories: Colorado Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

How Criminal Charges Can Affect Your Professional Medical License

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Every health care provider knows that their license to practice can be disciplined for misconduct on the job. However, many are surprised to learn that they can also be disciplined for actions including criminal charges that occur outside their professional lives.  A criminal conviction for a felony or misdemeanor that is not directly related to their profession can still result in discipline.

Criminal Charges Do Impact Professional Licenses.

Licensing authorities are charged with protecting the general public, not the individuals they regulate. Most health care practitioner practice acts include criminal convictions as one of the grounds for the denial or discipline of a professional license. Some of those acts (for example, Florida) allow the disciplinary authority to impose discipline upon a conviction even when adjudication is withheld.

These authorities can and do impose discipline based upon the facts underlying a conviction, even when the conviction itself is not directly related to the practice of a profession.  For example, a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) or reckless driving can raise the question of whether the practitioner could be impaired or reckless while providing patient care.  The licensing authority will most likely investigate these matters and the facts underlying the offense to determine if the practitioner poses a threat to the public.

Therefore, if you have been arrested for DUI, disorderly conduct, assault, or any other misdemeanor, you can anticipate that the state, the Department of Health (DOH) or the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs will start an investigation. It is imperative that you retain an attorney who can immediately defend your freedom during your criminal case and also protect your livelihood during licensing proceedings.


Conviction of Felony or Misdemeanor Charges May Lead to Suspension of Professional License.

In the event of a conviction, in many cases, this may trigger a report to the state licensing board.  In Florida, for example, a physician or other licensed health professional who is required to have a practitioner profile must update that profile with the information about the conviction within 15 days.  In Florida, a physician or other licensed health professional must also notify his or her licensing board for the Department of Health (when there is no board), in writing, within 30 days.

If you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges, it is imperative that you seek the advice and experience of an attorney who can navigate the criminal and administrative courts and get you the best possible result to protect your freedom and livelihood. Remember, your profession is often your only means of support.

Practitioners who have been arrested generally want their criminal cases resolved as quickly and quietly as possible.  Unfortunately, they may inadvertently accept a plea arrangement that results in severe discipline or revocation of their license.  All health care providers and their criminal attorneys should consider the consequences to the practitioner’s license before accepting a plea arrangement and should consult with an experienced health law attorney. Click here to read one of our prior blogs for more information on this.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Licensure Matter and Disciplinary Matters.

If you have been arrested, it is strongly recommended that you retain an experienced health care attorney who can advise you and your criminal counsel as to the effects a potential outcome could have on your license.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners in licensure matters.  We frequently consult with criminal defense attorneys regarding defense strategies tailored to minimizing criminal sanctions while at the same time preserving the practitioner’s license.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Health care license defense representation, professional licensure defense, representation for professional license suspension, reporting physician arrests and convictions, health care licensure defense attorney, medical license defense attorney, physician defense lawyer, representation for physician criminal charges, representation for nurse criminal charges, representation for dentist criminal charges, Department of Health (DOH) conviction, misdemeanor offenses physicians, legal representation for Supersedeas Relief, Department of Health (DOH) investigation, DOH representation, DOH attorney, DOH investigation representation, DOH defense lawyer, representation for license suspension, license revocation attorney, representation for license revocation, health care license defense attorney, representation for health care license, representation for health care professionals, representation for administrative hearings, representation for administrative appeals, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, Florida health law defense attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Dental Clinic Owners Found Guilty of $1 Million Medicaid, Tax Scheme

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On February 21, 2019, a federal jury found the owners of several dental clinics in Missouri guilty of a $1 million scheme to defraud the government. The owners of All About Smiles LLC, were convicted of submitting false claims to Medicaid for dentures and other services and payroll tax fraud, according to prosecutors.

Submitting False Claims.

Prosecutors alleged that the couple that owned the practice ran several schemes through the dental clinics from 2010 to 2015, including conspiring to defraud Medicaid. A main part of the scheme was to provide dentures and other services to adults who didn’t qualify for Medicaid. They would then bill the Medicaid program anyway, receiving more than $720,000, according to the DOJ.

The pair also allegedly ran a similar scheme with orthodontic equipment, racking up an estimated 241 false claims, said prosecutors. All About Smiles was paid approximately $165,700 during the the duration of the scheme.

Payroll Problems.

In addition to the fraud, the owners allegedly failed to forward payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) even though the money was withheld from employee paychecks. Instead, the married pair used the almost $195,000 to cover lavish personal expenses and make payments on a variety of vehicles, said the DOJ.

Not Smiling Anymore.

Jurors found the couple guilty on all charges detailed in a 40-count indictment accusing them of fraudulently operating three All About Smiles LLC dental clinics, said the DOJ. Additionally, their legal woes continued to stack up as each was also convicted on a count of theft of public money for collecting unemployment benefits while working.

The female owner faces up to 10 years in prison on every count besides the payroll tax conspiracy charge, which comes with a maximum penalty of five years. The husband owner could get up to a decade for obtaining unemployment benefits and five years for each additional charge, prosecutors said.

Click here to read the DOJ’s press release.

To read one of my prior blogs on a similar case about a dentist defrauding medicaid, click here.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicaid Billing Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent dentists, oral surgeons, and other health care providers in Medicaid audits, Medicare audits, insurance billing audits, ZPIC audits, RAC audits, administrative litigation and civil litigation throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in licensure complaints and investigations, DEA investigations, Medicare and Medicaid fraud investigations, audits, recovery actions and terminations from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Sources:

“All About Smiles Owners Convicted of Fraud.” Ozark Independent. (February 21, 2019). Web.
Posses, Shayna. “Couple Found Guilty Of $1M Medicaid, Payroll Tax Scheme.” Law360. (February 21, 2019). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-04-18T18:44:05-04:00April 18th, 2019|Categories: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Dental Law Blog, Dentist Defense attorney, Health Care Fraud, Health care Law, Medicaid Fraud, Medicaid fraud|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Colorado Jury Rules in Favor of Marijuana Grow Business in Federal RICO Lawsuit

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 14, 2018, a federal jury in Denver rejected claims involving the odor that was allegedly coming from a pot farm. This was a case that was being closely watched by the marijuana industry. The marijuana business had been sued for damages to neighboring property value under anti-racketeering laws.

A Closely Watched Lawsuit.

This was an important suit for the marijuana industry because it was the first federal suit brought under federal anti-racketeering laws. If the lawsuit had been successful, it could have created a new blueprint for opponents of marijuana legalization to dismantle the industry through civil cases under RICO laws.

The couple who own and live on land adjacent to the grow facility said the facility damaged their property values because of noise and odor. Because it harmed their views, and because no one wants to live near illegal activity, they claimed damages of $1 million.

The grow facility argued during trial that it didn’t cause any odor; its odor-control system doesn’t vent outdoors.

After a short deliberation, the jury ruled in favor of the marijuana grow facility and found it was not responsible for any of the alleged damages. Attorneys that represent similar marijuana facilities said proving property damages in cases like these are very difficult and hope the outcome of this case will deter others from trying the same. Click here to read more on this case.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs on this case.

It is unclear to me why the Plaintiffs in this case prosecuted the case under a RICO theory since such a cause of action is usually very difficult to prove. However, I am not aware of all the facts of the case. It seems to me that a simple suit for nuisance against the marijuana grow farm would have been easier to prove and obtain an injunction on.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Foody, Kathleen. “Colorado Lawsuit Could Ripple Through US Cannabis Industry.” Health News Florida. (October 30, 2018). Web.

Ingold, John. “Jury finds in favor of Colorado marijuana grow in closely watched federal lawsuit.” The Colorado Sun. (November 18, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

ECFMG Affidavit to Complete? Attending a Caribbean Medical School? Being Investigated for Irregular behavior by the ECFMG or USMLE? You need Legal Advice! Your Residency Matching Might Now Be at Issue, as Well!

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Have you recently unexpectedly received an affidavit from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG or the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat? Are you attending or have you graduated from a Caribbean medical School such as the University of Science, Art and Technology (USAT), Faculty of Medicine, in Montserrat, or the Atlantic University School of Medicine (AUSOM) in St. Lucia? Then you are probably, unknowingly, being investigated for misconduct, improprieties in your medical school attendance or other “irregular behavior.” You need to consult with a lawyer and specifically a lawyer who knows and understands the processes followed by the ECFMG and the USMLE.

Large Number of Legal Inquiries Being Received from Current Students and Graduates of USAT.

A year ago, our firm was receiving a large number of calls from students and graduates of the Atlantic University School of Medicine (AUSOM) concerning inquiries and letters they were receiving from the ECFMG and/or the USMLE. However, over the past several months, we have now received an even larger number of inquiries from students and alumni of the University of Arts, Technology and Sciences (USAT) Faculty of Medicine in Montserrat. We have now seen several different affidavits which the ECF image he has sent to students and graduates of USAT which request some very specific and detailed information about their course attendance and experience as students at USAT.

Each inquiry we have received from students and graduates of USAT has disclosed facts and circumstances that are slightly different from the other. From these we have been able to piece together a fairly comprehensive picture of what is probably going on. To summarize, it appears that you SAT is under investigation by the ECF image he for the various irregularities that our clients have disclosed have occurred in the past.

Affidavits from the ECFMG and the USMLE Should Be Taken Very Seriously. They Should Be Answered Truthfully and Must Be Returned Promptly.

The Handbook and Guidelines published by the ECFMG and the USMLE, require that any student or graduate who applies for their services must promptly respond to requests for information. This would include responding to the affidavits (which are really questionnaires to be completed under oath). Otherwise, the applicant can be charged by the ECFMG or the USMLE with “irregular behavior” in accordance with the Handbook and Guidelines that they previously agreed to follow when initially applying.

We hear from our callers, clients, and potential clients that they may have received instructions from their schools or from other sources that they do not have to do send these affidavits back in or respond to these requests for information. We do not believe that this is correct and vice. If confronted by having been sent such an inquiry or affidavit by the USEMLE or ECFMG, you should immediately contact competent, experienced, legal counsel to advise you on the exact issues and facts of the situation. You will only receive advice that takes your own personal interests into consideration from your own personal attorney; you are not likely to receive it from anyone else.

View Our Other Blogs on Our Experience with the USMLE, ECFMG, and NBME, and Hearings on “Irregular Behavior.”

Our law firm is had a great deal of experience representing students and graduates in disputes with and defending charges of “irregular behavior” against the USMLE, ECFMG and he NBME. To review a few of these please see:
What to Do If You Receive an Inquiry From the USMLE, ECFMG, or NBME
GOING TO TAKE THE USMLE STEP EXAMS? BEWARE OF ACTIONS THAT CAN BE CALLED “IRREGULAR BEHAVIOR”-PART 1, and
Accused of Irregular Behavior on the USMLE? Here’s What You Will Do Wrong.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent interns, residents, fellows and medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, supervisors, residency programs and in dismissal hearings. We have experience representing such individuals and those in graduate medical education programs in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation and any other matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida’s Medical Marijuana Once Again Threatened by Unnecessary Legal Setbacks

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The resignation of Florida’s medical marijuana chief on August 17, 2018, and a series of recent court losses, has once again threatened the state’s efforts for controlled legalization of marijuana.

On August 2, 2018, a Tallahassee judge struck down the licensing structure that the state Legislature and Department of Health (DOH) enacted for medical marijuana providers. In his order, Circuit Judge Charles Dodson said the state’s imposition of a cap on the number of medical marijuana treatment centers and its requirement for vertical integration from growing to dispensing “directly contradicts” a 2016 amendment to the Florida Constitution.

“Implementing” the Law or Impeding the Law?

In 2014, the Florida Legislature took the first step toward a sane approach to marijuana by legalizing a non-euphoric strain, known as Charlotte’s Web.

In November 2016, Amendment 2 to the Florida Constitution, legalizing medical marijuana, passed with 71 percent approval, its authorization for medical use. However, since that happened, state officials, state bureaucrats and the state legislature have done nothing but attempt to restrict and impede its use, ignoring the will of the people they are supposed to be serving.

The legislature passed an “implementing” law for the amendment in 2017, but the rule-making process and initial rollout has been slow and bogged down by complex litigation. To read more on the law, click here.

Attempts to artificially limit the number of growers, the number of dispensaries, and the forms that are legal to use, have all been used to impede implementation.

Such herculean efforts by state bureaucrats and legislatures, who are supposed to be carrying out the will of the citizens, is unconscionable. Even when the Florida Constitution itself requires them to preform certain duties, they just obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. Thank goodness for conscientious judges like Judge Dodson, who honor the law, follow the law, and will hopefully help enforce the law, regardless of the politics of those who chose to ignore and impede it.

This just shows that future constitutional amendments concerning the legalization of marijuana and marijuana products, and I am sure nothing less than additional constitutional amendments will be required, will need to state that they are self-implementing and no act of the state legislature or rule of any state agency is required carry it out. In fact, any such future constitutional amendment should specifically prohibit them from interfering with its implementation.

Ongoing Legal Battles.

With the recent rulings rejecting a smoking ban and saying a cancer patient can grow his own plants, experts fear that Judge Dodson’s August ruling will drastically alter the current landscape. Lawyers, who specialize in the field of marijuana law, say this ruling has the greatest potential impact of any decision to date. Additionally, banking and money issues, litigation and politics have continued to shake up the outcome.

Thanks for attorney John Morgan and other advocates who take up and challenge the attempts to fight the will of the people of Florida. During the next election, marijuana advocates should run advertisements specifically targeting those officials who enacted legislation or who attempted to enact agency rules placing obstacles to implementing the constitutional amendment.

What Outcome is Best for the State of Florida?

The state of Florida has the potential to become one of the nation’s largest markets for medical marijuana, likely worth billions of dollars. It has the third-largest population, which is growing and features a large number of elderly residents, lawyers noted. So, when it comes to medical marijuana, the question remains, “What is best for the state of Florida in the long run?”

To learn more on the status of Florida’s marijuana legalization, click here to read one of my prior blogs. Be sure to check our Marijuana Law Blog regularly for updates.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact the Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Hale, Nathan. “Fla. Medical Marijuana Measure May Boost Business For Firms.” Law360. (October 25, 2016). Web.

Hale, Nathan. “Setbacks Shake Up Fla.’s Medical Marijuana Rollout.” Law360. (August 17, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Shortage of Florida Physicians Approved to Recommend “Green Leaf Relief” for Patients

George F. Indest III, Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Florida may be “going green” in a big way come November 2016; and I’m not talking about recycling.  The Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, or Ballot Initiative Amendment 2, has undergone revisions, and will likely be making its second run with voters since its marginal loss in 2014.  Promoters of the Constitutional Amendment predict success; hopefully this isn’t just a pipe dream.

However, the Florida Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, currently allows low-THC cannabis to be utilized only by qualifying patients for certain medical ailments.  A licensed physician, as outlined in Chapter 458 or 459 of Florida Statutes, is required to qualify patients for the use of medical marijuana.

For FAQ’s on low-THC cannabis issued by the Florida Department of Health (DOH), click here.

Physician Requirements for Qualifying Patients and Ordering.

For a patient to qualify to obtain and use THC, a previously approved physician must examine and currently be treating a patient for a debilitating illness.  Such illnesses include cancer or any physical medical condition or ailment that produces chronic seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms (such as epilepsy or multiple sclerosis).  Furthermore, the physician must have tried all other options of treatment without satisfactory results.  Medical marijuana must be a last resort alternative.  Section 381.986(2), Florida Statutes (2015).

One of the physician ordering requirements is that the doctor must “register as the orderer of low-THC cannabis for the named patient on the compassionate use registry maintained by the department [of health] and update the registry to reflect the contents of the order.”  Section 381.986(2)(c), Florida Statutes (2015).

In order to become registered in Florida, licensed physicians must successfully complete an 8-hour course, offered by either the Florida Medical Association (FMA) or the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association (FOMA).  It is necessary for the physician to satisfactorily pass an examination upon completion of the course.  Section 381.986(4), Florida Statutes (2015).

Currently, only 42 doctors varied throughout Florida in areas to include Orlando, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, have signed up for authorization.

Why the Lack of Physicians?

Several theories may account for the lack of physician involvement in the program in Florida.

One of the theories that may explain why physicians are hesitant to jump on board with this new-age line of treatment, is the lack of scientific research conducted in the United States to back the medical efficacy of medical marijuana.  Scientists are reluctant to answer even the most basic questions about the use of medical marijuana including the long-term risks, actual benefits and the overall effect of legalization.

Many physicians may be concerned that the use of medical marijuana is supported more by popular opinion than on actual medical research.

However, a primary reason for insignificant research may be due to the unavailability of the drug for scientific study due to its illegal status.  The federal government entirely restricts the authorization to use marijuana for medical research.  The media is replete with stories on this.  As the debate over marijuana and its legalization for medical use becomes more widespread and pertinent, the drug has concurrently become more available for research.

For more information on current medical marijuana research efforts as reported by U.S.A. Today, click here.

Who Will Dispense the Marijuana?

Another hold-up in support from physicians may be due to the fact that the Department of Health (DOH) is still in the process of selecting the five dispensing organizations throughout Florida that will be developing and dispensing the drug.

As originally proposed, this requires an arduous application process presently consisting of proposals from 24 competing companies.  A dispensing organization must have the ability to meet several requirements as set forth in the statues, including the financial ability to post a $5 million performance bond upon approval.  Section 381.986(5)(b), Florida Statutes (2015).

Many physicians are still waiting to know where the drugs will be dispensed, what the dosages will be, what forms they will be available in and how much they will cost.  These are all important factors to consider in determining whether or not medical marijuana may be beneficial to certain patients.

Penalties for Misuse.

A final reason for physician avoidance of marijuana is fear of criminal prosecution and discipline by their boards, given the lingering gray areas of the law.

To read one of our previous blogs regarding a federal judge’s challenge of the DOJ’s incorrect interpretation of federal law on medical marijuana prosecutions and a win for medical marijuana advocates across the nation, click here.

It is undisputed that the use of medical marijuana is on the rise.  Therefore, any licensed physician who is contemplating or has already signed up for the program, needs to be sure they are in strict compliance with Florida law.

A physician is committing a misdemeanor, which may result in criminal penalties, if he or she orders low-THC cannabis for a patient without possessing a reasonable belief that the patient is suffering from one of the debilitating medical conditions as described in Section 381.986(3)(a)(1) and (2), Florida Statutes.

It is one of the ongoing duties of the dispensing organizations established by the Department to “monitor physician registration and ordering of low-THC cannabis for ordering practices that could facilitate unlawful diversion or misuse of low-THC cannabis and take disciplinary action as indicated.”  Section 381.986(5)(b)(7)(c), Florida Statutes (2015).

Therefore, a physician interested in obtaining authorization to order medical marijuana for his or her patients, should contact an experienced health attorney as a safeguard to ensure he or she complies fully with the law.

Comments?

Why do you believe there is a lack of physician involvement in Florida in the medical marijuana program?  What are your thoughts on the availability of medical marijuana in Florida?

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Sources:

Powers, Scott.  “Medical-pot backers unfazed only 42 doctors in program.”  Orlando Sentinel 20 August 2015: Final.  Print.

Caputo, Mark.  “Medical marijuana supporters unveil new proposal for 2016.”  Miami Herald.  8 January 2015.  Web.  27 August 2015.

Keywords: medical marijuana lawyer, marijuana attorney, low-THC cannabis, medical cannabis, complaint against physician, Florida law, health attorney, doctor defense attorney Department of Health, Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, disciplinary action for prescribing, medical marijuana regulations, prescribing controlled substances, physicians recommending marijuana, health regulation lawyer, medical license defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, health law attorney, DEA defense lawyer, medical marijuana ordering physician, compassionate-use in Florida, physician certifications for medical marijuana, cannabis for treatment of debilitating medical condition

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

New Study Reveals Only One Long Term Effect From Smoking Marijuana

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

According to new research, long-term marijuana use may not be so bad for your health after all. A recent long-term study of nearly 1,000 New Zealanders from birth to age 38 has found that people who smoked marijuana for up to 20 years have more gum disease, but otherwise do not show worse physical health than non-smokers.

The researchers’ findings, published in the June issue of The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry, found that among the 38-year-olds surveyed, 55.6% of people who had smoked marijuana regularly for 15 or 20 years had gum disease, while only 13.5% of the 38-year-olds who had never used marijuana and don’t smoke cigarettes had the same disease.

To draw their comparisons among the participants, researchers assessed physical health issues like lung function, systemic inflammation, and metabolic syndrome. They also study-controlled for factors like socioeconomic status as well as self-reported brushing and flossing habits, according to Live Science. Click here to read the article in full.

The Findings.

In general, the findings showed that cannabis use over 20 years was unrelated to health problems in early midlife. Across the several domains of health factored in, clear evidence of an adverse association with cannabis use was apparent for only one domain, namely, periodontal health. While cannabis users had poor periodontal health, in some cases they actually showed better health outcomes than non-smokers such as lower body mass indexes, smaller waists and better high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, the good cholesterol. These results have led researchers to think that cannabis may have an impact on metabolism. Tobacco users in the study, were found to have gum disease as well as reduced lung function, systemic inflammation and indicators of poorer metabolic health.

“We can see the physical health effects of tobacco smoking in this study, but we don’t see similar effects for cannabis smoking,” Madeline Meier, an assistant professor of psychology at Arizona State University and the lead author on the study, told Duke Today.

Study’s Authors Warn: These Results Don’t Give a Green Light to Smoke As Much As You Want.

While this study revealed that tobacco smokers may be worse off tobacco, it doesn’t mean you should necessarily smoke marijuana as much as you want. “We need to recognize that heavy recreational cannabis use does have some adverse consequences, but overall damage to physical health is not apparent in this study,” Avshalom Caspi, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and a coauthor on the study, said in a statement, according to Live Science.

To learn more about the effects and potential benefits of marijuana, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

More Medical Research Showing the Lack of Harm of Marijuana Use is Needed.

What this study shows is something that most of us who actually lived through the hippy movement of the Sixties already knew. Smoking marijuana is not harmful to you. Despite what marijuana opponents would like to be true, the evidence just does not support the harmfulness of marijuana. The problem is that with the lack of research studies because of federal restrictions, there is little published legitimate clinical research to actually prove the harmlessness of marijuana. This study goes far to show that fact. I would strongly encourage academic institutions to support such research and the federal government to stop its persecution of marijuana legalization and to support such research.

By comparison, those vices which are legal (alcohol and smoking be the two major ones), cause thousands of deaths each year and billions of dollars of loss to our economy, directly attributable to their use. Not so for marijuana! If we could take fifty percent of the alcohol abusers and convert them to using marijuana, instead, think of the savings on alcohol-related diseases, loss of income, domestic strife, the requirement for rehabilitation and treatment, and other such consequences. There are no known or reported cases of someone dying from a marijuana overdose. By comparison, how many thousands of U.S. citizens have died of alcohol overdoses?

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact the Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Berke, Jeremy. “A new study might have found one of the only long-term physical health risks linked to smoking marijuana.” Business Insider. (June 3, 2016). Web.

“Pot-Smokers Harm Gums; Other Physical Effects Slight.” Duke Today. (May 31, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Long-term effects of marijuana use, the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), recreational marijuana use, legal counsel for medical marijuana, marijuana defense attorney, associations between cannabis use and physical health problems, cannabis versus tobacco users, health lawyer, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Denver Coffee Shop May Become First Business to Allow Social Marijuana Use

By Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D.

On December 12, 2017, the first application to allow social marijuana use in a business has landed in Denver, Colorado. This first application seeks to allow the social use of marijuana vaping and use of edibles southwest of downtown. Denver is the first in the U.S. to allow public consumption at businesses and at permitted events. You won’t have to fly all the way to Amsterdam any longer to partake of the weed.

The Coffee Joint.

The first that have applied to take advantage of this are two Denver entrepreneurs who plan to open a coffee shop called “The Coffee Joint.” The owners have connections to a marijuana dispensary next door. Despite the name, the coffee shop does not plan to allow the smoking of marijuana, only vaping and the consumption of edibles for patrons over the age of 21.

The business also plans to offer vaping equipment for purchase and states that it hopes to offer educational programs about the medicinal benefits of marijuana.

To stay on top of the latest in marijuana laws and policies, check out our Marijuana Law Blog regularly.

To read further on the impact of the marijuana industry in Colorado, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical and Recreational Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Murray, Jon. “Pot in coffee shop, but sans smoke.” The Denver Post. (December 12, 2017). Print.

Ackerman, Mark. “Denver Coffee Shop Aims To Be First Business To Allow Social Pot Use.” Denver CBS Local. (December 11, 2017). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and registered nurse. She practices with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

KeyWords: Growing marijuana industry in Colorado, marijuana defense attorney, medical marijuana defense attorney, lawyer for medical marijuana growers and distributors, health lawyers for marijuana distributors, legal counsel for marijuana growers and distributors, medical marijuana laws, marijuana laws, medical marijuana legalization, recreational marijuana laws and regulations, legal representation for recreational marijuana in a business, legal counsel for marijuana law, marijuana law attorney, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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