The Colorado constitution says medical marijuana patients may grow six cannabis plants, but also allows doctors to recommend higher plant counts for patients if it is “medically necessary.” Pictured: A cannabis industry worker trims off small limbs from a mother plant as he prepares clones at a commercial grow facility in Denver in March 2014. (Seth McConnell, Denver Post file)

Four Colorado doctors suspended over medical pot plant counts

State Board of Medicine says doctors recommended plant counts of 75 or more; the standard is six plants

Four Colorado doctors had their licenses suspended Tuesday after the state Board of Medicine alleged the doctors improperly recommended excessive plant counts to more than 1,500 medical marijuana patients.

All of the recommendations involved approvals for patients to grow or possess at least 75 plants. The standard plant count for medical marijuana patients is six plants, and state health officials have long threatened to crack down on doctors who they believe recommend higher amounts without sufficient justification.

The suspended doctors are:

  • Dr. Gentry Dunlop, of Aurora, who was first licensed to practice medicine in Colorado in 1988
  • Dr. Robert Maiocco, of Denver, who was first licensed to practice medicine in Colorado in 1997
  • Dr. Deborah Parr, of Durango, who was first licensed to practice medicine in Colorado in 2009
  • Dr. William Stone, of Colorado Springs, who was first licensed to practice medicine in Colorado in 2010

Suspension documents for each say the punishments will last “until resolution of this matter.” Dunlop is accused of issuing medical marijuana recommendations authorizing 75 or more plants to at least 700 patients. Maiocco is accused of making such recommendations to at least 190 patients, Parr to at least 300 patients and Stone to at least 400 patients.

Because marijuana is a federal Schedule I controlled substance, doctors cannot prescribe marijuana to patients. Instead, doctors in Colorado recommend to patients suffering from one of eight conditions that they might benefit from marijuana, the first — and sometimes only — step for people to become legal medical marijuana patients.

The state constitution says medical marijuana patients may grow six cannabis plants, but also allows doctors to recommend higher plant counts for patients if it is “medically necessary.” Medical marijuana advocates say some patients need the higher counts to make edibles or concentrated marijuana oils. Law enforcement officials worry the high plant counts could be cover for illegal diversion.

Such recommendations, though, are rare.

There are currently 106,066 licensed medical marijuana patients in Colorado, according to state Health Department figures accurate as of May 31. Of those, 91,597 — 86 percent — hold recommendations for no more than six plants. Only 477 patients — less than half of a percent — hold recommendations for more than 75 plants, according to the Health Department figures. It is unclear whether the Health Department rejected the recommendations made by the now-suspended doctors.

Suspension documents say all of the suspect recommendations were issued in the past year. The documents specifically allege that none of the recommendations were for patients diagnosed with cancer. Without a cancer diagnosis, the Medical Board alleges a recommendation for more than 75 plants, “falls below generally accepted standards of medical practice and lacks medical necessity.”

Neither Dunlop nor Maiocco have been disciplined by the Medical Board before. In 2010, the board sent Parr a letter of admonition after medical officials in Texas reprimanded her for inappropriately prescribing opiates to two patients with histories of substance abuse. The Colorado Medical Board sent Stone a letter of admonition in March criticizing him for performing, “several patient evaluations for medical marijuana via the internet.”

This story was first published on DenverPost.com