The Colorado State Medical Board suspended the doctors — Maiocco, Gentry Dunlop, Deborah Parr and William Stone — after alleging they had written recommendations allowing more than 1,500 medical marijuana patients, combined, to grow or possess 75 or more plants. Pictured: Medical marijuana grows at Jeff Smith’s and Cassie Heckenkamp’s property along the McKenzie River east of Springfield, Ore. on June 2, 2016. (Andy Nelson, The Register-Guard via AP)

For now, judge blocks medical pot doctors’ suspensions

'It was a fair decision by the judge': Doctors say Colorado Medical Board based punishment on unwritten rule

A Denver judge on Friday temporarily blocked the suspensions of four doctors who were the first in the state to be punished for allegedly over-recommending high plant counts to medical marijuana patients.

The doctors, though, won’t be allowed to make official medical marijuana recommendations until their disciplinary cases are resolved.

“It was a fair decision by the judge,” Dr. Robert Maiocco, one of the four suspended doctors, said after a Friday court hearing.

The ruling from Denver District Court Judge Ross Buchanan is a setback to the Colorado Medical Board’s efforts to crack down on doctors who sign off on large plant counts. The four doctors were the first in the state to be punished for such activity, a lawyer for the Medical Board said at Friday’s hearing.

The doctors, though, said state health officials arbitrarily selected a number of plants per patient that would bring about scrutiny — 75 — and then didn’t tell doctors about it, making it basically an unwritten rule. Russell Klein, an attorney for the Medical Board, defended the approach because, he said, the board has the authority, “to determine whether certain actions by physicians meet the standard of care.”

But Buchanan was unswayed.

“If they’re the first physicians,” he asked, “and they literally find out the morning they’re told to stop practicing, that isn’t fair, is it?”

Buchanan’s ruling comes in the first round of what could be a long fight. The doctors have the ability to request a hearing before the Medical Board and then take the matter to the state’s administrative courts system. Or, they could proceed forward with their lawsuit against the Medical Board in Denver District Court in the hopes of winning a permanent injunction against the suspensions.

Earlier this week, the Medical Board suspended the doctors — Maiocco, Gentry Dunlop, Deborah Parr and William Stone — after alleging they had written recommendations allowing more than 1,500 medical marijuana patients, combined, to grow or possess 75 or more plants. The standard plant count for a medical marijuana patient is six, but doctors may recommend more if they find it medically necessary.

All of the doctors see non-medical marijuana patients, whom they argued were harmed by the suspensions. Maiocco no longer writes medical marijuana recommendations at all.

“My name’s been harmed,” he said after Friday’s hearing. “I’m very disappointed in the Medical Board.”

This story was first published on DenverPost.com