He, like other medical professionals with tarnished licenses, are finding new life in Florida’s medical marijuana program.
A Tampa Bay Times examination of the 1,432 doctors in the program reveals Florida’s new marijuana initiative has turned into a magnet for physicians with troubled pasts.
The Times analyzed Department of Health data from April detailing medical board discipline, $100,000-plus malpractice cases, and criminal incidents, then reviewed hundreds of doctors’ files.
In total, 262 of the doctors had some sort of blemish on their record, the Times analysis shows — nearly 1 in 5 of the doctors allowed to recommend marijuana.
Marijuana doctors were 2.8 times as likely as other doctors to have been disciplined by the Board of Medicine, and 2.4 times as likely to have been charged with a crime. Altogether, 108 of them were responsible for $69.4 million in malpractice judgments and settlements, some for maiming or killing patients.
Some of the doctors have been fined, suspended or stripped of their licenses in other states. They’ve misdiagnosed conditions, falsified records and written prescriptions for people they never saw. They’ve been jailed for domestic violence. A few have sexually abused patients, including those as young as 14 and 16.
Experts and marijuana advocates said they were surprised by the findings. Several faulted Florida’s systems for being too discouraging to good physicians.
“The whole structure is set up to make it very unattractive for your average, law-abiding physician to want to do this,” said Ben Pollara, a political consultant who is a prominent leader in Florida’s medical marijuana movement. “And so the result is you get a higher proportion of people who may not have as much respect for the laws of the land.”
Florida Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole, D-Plantation, who was a co-sponsor of the state’s first medical marijuana legislation in 2014, said the results of the Times analysis made her “blood boil.”
She blamed the Florida Board of Medicine and state Department of Health for being too lenient, and said the law may need to be changed.