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Doctor Accused of Pushing Weed

The Albequerque Journal reported last week that a physician suspended for over-prescribing marijuana should face a competency evaluation. The doctor, Nicholas Nardacci, was accused of screening and recommending marijuana for an estimated 1000 patients. The data is available to the board because registered patients submit forms with the doctor’s information on them.

According to the Journal, Nardacci testified in a previous hearing that he certifies 98 percent of patients seeking medical marijuana, but in a more recent quote, the doctor said he turns away about a third of the patients. Not all patients who receive a recommendation will be issued a medical marijuana card from the state, it depends on diagnosis and severity of the disease being treated.

The paper said Nardacci complained about early reporting on the case and the paper quotes an email from the doctor: "You make it sound like I accept anyone who walks in the door"

It is not illegal for a doctor to recommend medical marijuana based on their judgment, even if the underlying medical condition does not meet state standards for the program. The conflict arises when a doctor prescribes drugs without medical justification or a proper evaluation of a patient.

This ruling doesn’t necessarily mean that Dr. Nardacci will be unable to practice or prescribe medications. One option is a restricted license that would require another physician to oversee Nardacci’s work.

Nardacci has denied any wrongdoing. He further claims immunity under our state’s medical marijuana law.

There may be a good reason for the high recommendation rate and a concentration of patients seeking marijuana from Nardacci. In some cases, patients will understand the law and their condition clearly, but find they cannot get a recommendation from their regular physician. Doctors are sometimes loath to prescribe marijuana because of the conflict between state and federal law (physicians hold a federal controlled substance license). If they fear violating federal law, they very well may refer patients to a doctor willing to take the risk.

Other factors that drive patients to one “pot friendly” doctor are recommendations from friends who are already on the program and for cost/price reasons.

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