Image via doctorstarkman.com
Aug 28, 2015
SF Gate - CHICAGO (AP) — Supporters of an Illinois doctor who's in trouble for a marijuana recommendation say his case could have a chilling effect on other doctors' participation in the state's medical cannabis pilot program.
Dr. Joseph J. Starkman, 36, faces possible suspension or revocation of his license for multiple violations of the Medical Practice Act. He is slated to present his side of the case at a hearing Friday in Chicago.
"The Department will investigate complaints of illegal or unprofessional behavior by physicians, including those involved in the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, and, if the evidence clearly demonstrates non-compliant actions, intends to discipline violators," said Terry Horstman, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
The Illinois medical marijuana law requires a "bona fide physician-patient relationship" beyond a marijuana consultation. Doctors must attest that any patient they recommend for the program has an approved diagnosis and is likely to benefit from using marijuana.
"If Dr. Starkman is disciplined for what he's been charged with, it will send a message to doctors in Illinois that it's almost impossible to legally certify patients for medical marijuana," Goldberg told The Associated Press. Starkman wasn't available to comment because of the pending testimony, his attorney said.
Regulators have taken a hard line with the state's doctors, warning them against setting up medical cannabis clinics.
In late 2013, Starkman was doing business in suburban Chicago as Integr8Illinois, under an arrangement with Integr8 Health, a Maine medical practice that specializes in medical cannabis and integrative medicine. VPR Media and Marketing, a public relations firm working with Integr8 Health, provided a six-page background document on Starkman's case.
"Dr. Starkman has chosen to stand up for all medical providers and patients in Illinois by fighting the unjust charges and proposed punishments that (Illinois) wants to force him to agree to," according to the provided information.
Starkman has refunded fees to patients to whom he'd recommended marijuana, the document said, and has "been trying to grow a family practice of his own without doing any cannabis medicine" after state officials requested he stop.
The Illinois State Medical Society declined an opportunity to comment on Starkman or whether his case would deter doctors from recommending marijuana to their patients.
Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois, an industry group, considers physician education "part of our core mission," according to Bresha Brewer.
"It is essential that everyone work within the established regulatory structure to achieve our number one objective of providing medical cannabis as a safe and viable option for patients," Brewer said in an email.