Thursday, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that doctors who certify patients to use medical marijuana can’t be criminally charged if they fail to review the patient’s records going back an entire year. The appeals court said that Arizona’s medical marijuana law gives doctors immunity for their referral decisions. However, the 2010 medical marijuana law does allow licensing boards to discipline doctors who improperly write recommendations.
“In enacting the (law), the voters explicitly barred prosecution of a physician for providing ‘written certifications’ or ‘for otherwise stating’ that certain patients may benefit from ‘the medical use of marijuana,’ ” presiding Judge Patricia K. Norris wrote in the opinion, which was joined by two other justices. According to Norris protecting patients and physicians from prosecution was a critical part of the law.
The decision affirms the recent dismissal of charges against Phoenix naturopath Dr. Robert Gear. Gear was charged with forgery and fraud after signing a medical marijuana certification for a police informant in 2012 based on his examination before actually reviewing a year’s worth of records for the patient.
Gear’s attorney Kimberly Kent agreed with the court decision stating, “because this is a health care law, this is a health care issue. And issue of compliance should be decided by people like the department of health or the regulatory agencies that oversee physicians and nurse practitioners who choose to participate in the program.”