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DHS news release

April 1, 2004

Contact: Patricia Feeny (503) 945-6955
Technical contact: Grant Higginson (503) 731-4000

Physician's suspension means medical marijuana applications can't be processed

The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) is sending letters today to more than 500 people, informing them their applications for a medical marijuana card cannot be processed.

"On March 4, the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners (BME) suspended the medical license of Dr. Phillip E. Leveque, the physician who signed off on these applications," said Grant Higginson, M.D., state health officer in DHS. "This means we cannot process any applications signed by this doctor."

Higginson said the applicants will need to find a new attending physician to verify that they suffer from a medical condition qualifying them to use medical marijuana legally as a treatment.

Also today, DHS is filing a temporary administrative rule to allow these patients 90 days to provide new medical documentation. This means the deadline for submitting verification from a new attending physician is 5 p.m. on July 2.

The current rule allows patients 30 days to find another attending physician when their original doctor is unable to provide the required documentation. The temporary rule extends that timeline by 60 days for a total of 90 days, according to Higginson.

"Because so many applicants are affected by the BME order, we want to provide adequate time for them to find and complete appointments with new physicians," Higginson said. "We don't want to put an unreasonable burden on these patients, since it's the doctor who's being disciplined and not them."

Higginson said the letters offer applicants two additional options. "People may also decide to withdraw their application or they may choose to do nothing," he said.

Under voter approved law, applicants are exempt from legal prosecution while they are waiting for approval or denial of their application.

"A person who withdraws an application will immediately lose protection under the law but will be able to request a fee refund," Higginson said. "A person who does nothing remains legally protected until the July 2 deadline and a fee refund may be requested at that time. In either case, they also may reapply at any time by sending in a new, complete application."

Higginson noted that the BME is a separate state agency responsible for licensing and disciplining all Oregon physicians, and that DHS had no role in that agency's decision.

Additional information about Oregon's medical marijuana program is on the Web.