The state health department has launched an investigation after an unauthorized physician signature was used to help about 600 Missouri patients get certified for medical marijuana use. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Spokesperson Lisa Cox tells Missourinet an involved party notified the state of suspected case of the fraud, and then the agency worked to find additional affected individuals.
“What we’ve found was that a doctor who is perfectly capable of certifying patients if he or she chose to, their name and credentials were being used without their knowledge to actually certify these patients,” says Cox. “It’s primarily affecting the St. Louis area, is what we’ve found. There were some patients in the northern part of the state.”
Cox says all of the roughly 54,000 medical marijuana patient applications received have been reviewed for good standing and for red flags or discrepancies that indicate the need for additional checks. On top of that, the department does regular random checks.
Missouri’s medical marijuana process allows patients to request certification virtually. Cox thinks the patients got an unauthorized signature primarily through telemedicine visits.
“What the investigation is, is trying to determine who this person was that was possibly offering these telemedicine visits to patients who unknowingly maybe weren’t being seen by an actual doctor,” says Cox.
Patients impacted are being notified and given a deadline to submit a valid doctor’s approval to the state. If a valid certification is not received by the deadline, the individual’s license will be revoked, pursuant to 19 CSR 30-95.030(3)(B)1.C, and a pro-rated refund of the original $25 registration fee for the amount of time left on the deactivated license will be provided. If patients contact DHSS and are working to make an appointment or are struggling to do so, the state could try to resolve the issue on a case by case basis.
Some clinics are even offering free appointments to help the defrauded patients get a valid doctor’s approval.
The suspected fraud case has been referred to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the Board of Healing Arts for further potential action.
Missouri could start selling medical marijuana later this summer, possibly in August, to patients with qualifying health conditions.