Florida officials went undercover to investigate a doctor who was illegally selling cannabis prescriptions. The state is trying to crack down on the opioid epidemic and sees this as an opportunity for cannabis to be legalized in the state.
According to reports and public documents, a Florida physician is suing the state after the Department of Health deployed undercover officers to his medicinal cannabis clinic and recorded dubious activities. A health department complaint claims that Joseph Dorn, MD, of the Tallahassee-based Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida, misrepresented or inflated findings and failed to perform significant patient evaluations when the agents visited. His license may be jeopardized.
Two agents pretended to be patients and went to Dorn for medicinal cannabis consultations in 2017 and 2018. They claimed to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and back discomfort, among other illnesses. According to a government complaint, Dorn did not request medical data or interview the patients in disguise. However, he continued to write the prescriptions they need in order to get medicinal cannabis.
Dorn was officially investigated by the Department of Health in August 2019, according to the complaint. According to a report from the News Service of Florida, a hearing was conducted in September.
Dorn’s lawyer, Ryan Andrews, JD, is blasting the health department in the aftermath of the hearing, claiming that it may have broken federal law and tried to mislead Dorn. Dorn is being pursued in part because he formerly worked as the medical director for Surterra Wellness, one of the state’s medicinal cannabis businesses. State law prohibits these organizations’ physicians from prescribing cannabis for medical purposes. Dorn hasn’t worked at the company since the sting operation.
According to the News Service, the sting is one of the state’s first significant actions against physicians prescribing cannabis since the practice was allowed in Florida in 2016.
Dorn has had an active Florida medical license since June 1994, according to a state database, with no disciplinary history; it expires Jan. 31, 2022. According to his website’s profile and state records, he graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston with a doctorate in medicine and dentistry.
Dorn, a former medical director at Covenant Hospice and Hospice of Citrus County, as well as an assistant medical director at Big Bend Hospice, has been a medical cannabis advocate since 2016. In his profile, he writes, “Providing care for terminally ill patients utilizing prescription opioids and other addictive conventional medicines, which were frequently less successful and had numerous adverse effects, led me to explore alternative therapies.”
When state investigators visited Dorn’s office in June 2017, they found no medical equipment save a stethoscope, according to the lawsuit. He charged $299 for each new patient consultation.
In November 2017, the first undercover agent arrived at the clinic, posing as a 30-year-old with muscular spasms and anxiousness. After the agent characterized the man’s suffering as a “8,” Dorn stated he would put a “10” on his record for the man’s pain level.
In April 2018, a second agent arrived, posing as a 36-year-old man with a 2008 record indicating he had PTSD symptoms. Dorn then entered these symptoms into a new record, along with others that the guy had not mentioned.
Dorn did not examine each guy, check his restricted prescription medication history, or thoroughly analyze his medical history. He gave them cannabis credentials and told them how to use the plant. Dorn “failed to have sufficient medical reason to back the diagnosis of PTSD” for both men, according to the state.
The state claimed that Dorn “made misleading, false, or fraudulent statements in or connected to the practice of medicine and/or used a trick or plan in the practice of medicine.”
Dorn’s license was revoked or suspended, his practice was restricted, he was fined and reprimanded, he was placed on probation, and he was ordered to repay invoices, among other demands.
Kristen Summers, the department’s top legal counsel, signed the complaint in May 2019.
According to Andrews, Dorn’s lawyer, the investigators lacked law enforcement authorities, and state officials violated federal law by faking military papers and having a person claim to have illnesses qualifying him for medical cannabis therapy. The attorney also accused staff at the agency of concocting a scheme to deceive Dorn by forging and fabricating federal papers.
“Because the Department of Health has put in place a play that anyone who comes into your office could be coming in with federal medical records that we told our staff to forge, the DOH’s illegal actions in this investigation will have an effect on how physicians order medical marijuana for patients. As a result, they must now be cautious “he said
According to state records, a virtual hearing was scheduled at an unspecified time on October 6; CBS Miami reported that a final hearing would be conducted on October 27-28.
According to state documents, the state’s Board of Medicine has joined the Department of Health as petitioners in the lawsuit. In the initial complaint, the board was not identified. Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins has been appointed to the case.
Veterans organizations informed Robert Beasley, JD, another lawyer representing Dorn, last year that Florida was pursuing physicians who issued cannabis prescriptions for PTSD, according to the News Service.
Andrews didn’t respond to a request for comment. The Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment. By press time, MedPage Today had been unable to acquire a copy of the September hearing transcript.