Missoula judge pulls man’s medical marijuana card after 4th DUI

A man sentenced Tuesday for his fourth drunken driving incident won’t be able to use his medical marijuana when he gets out of a treatment program – unless a doctor can convince Missoula District Judge Dusty Deschamps that it’s really necessary.

The problem, Deschamps said, is that William Vaughan obtained his medical marijuana recommendation online.

“Prescribing medication over the Internet … I think that’s bogus and I’m not going to allow it,” Deschamps told Vaughan, 51.

Vaughan, who was arrested May 1 after someone called 9-1-1 to report an intoxicated man getting into a Chevy Blazer in Caras Park, was sentenced Tuesday to 13 months in the Department of Corrections’ WATCh addiction treatment program. That’s standard, said Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jason Marks, given that Montana law sets narrow sentencing guidelines in DUI cases.

That will be followed by a three-year suspended sentence – also within the two- to five-year standard – as long as Vaughan follows the usual court prohibitions such as refraining from consuming alcohol or illegal drugs. As of Tuesday, those conditions also prohibit medical marijuana use, unless Vaughan produces a doctor in court.

However, after considerable prodding from public defender Susan Boyer, Deschamps allowed as to how written documentation from a physician might also be acceptable. Emphasis on might.

“I’m not guaranteeing I would,” he said.

Boyer pointed out that defendants with prescriptions for say, painkillers such as Lortab or Dilaudid, aren’t required to bring doctors in, but Deschamps said he’d impose the same requirement for any prescription that seemed questionable.

Vaughan, who Boyer said used medical marijuana for arthritis in his back and also pain from a collarbone broken years earlier, also objected to the condition.”There’s many more hundreds and thousands of people who just walk in and get prescriptions and stuff,” he said.

“Not in my court,” Deschamps shot back.

Deschamps said after Tuesday’s sentencing that it wasn’t the first time he’s imposed a ban on medical marijuana use as part of a sentence. Most defendants don’t pursue it, he said, although he added that earlier this week he allowed a man to continue his medical marijuana use after a physician confirmed the man’s need.

Deschamps said he includes the condition “because of revelations of what I consider to be extreme abuse and improper medical practice not in accordance with what the state of Montana has established to be legitimate procedures.”

Vaughan didn’t say where he got his recommendation, other than to describe it as “a favorite local establishment.”

Missoula’s Montana Caregivers Network (now also known as Cannabis Care) became nationally known for its traveling “cannabis caravans” and online clinics that signed up hundreds of patients within a few hours.

The state Board of Medical Examiners ruled in November that doctors must make full patient examinations before signing up patients for green cards. Board executive director Jean Branscum said that MCN founder Jason Christ assured the board that his business now uses face-to-face visits for initial recommendations and teleconferences for follow-up. A teleconference was scheduled for Feb. 3.

Christ said Tuesday that he couldn’t comment on the sentence without knowing more about it.

But Tom Daubert, who heads the Patient and Families United Group that successfully backed the voters initiative that legalized medical marijuana in Montana in 2004, said that the traveling clinics and online recommendations are “a gross disservice to all those patients and to the law itself.”

The 2011 Legislature is considering several bills to rein in the use of medical marijuana. The number of registered patients in the state grew threefold in 2010, and Daubert – who works as a lobbyist in Helena – blames the traveling and online clinics.

“It’s in large measure why tomorrow (Wednesday) I’m going to be facing a hearing to repeal the law completely,” he said, “and why yesterday I was in a hearing on a bill to target chronic pain patients.”

via : Missoulian

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