CONTACT Doc asks what's up with pot dispensaries - Dr. Christian Thurstone

Several of my young patients in Denver have told me how ridiculously easy it was to get the medical marijuana licenses that fueled the addictions that drove them into my clinic for treatment. 

One young man said the recommending physician he paid $200 for a license merely shook his hand and asked, “Do you want to hear a joke?” The physician wisecracked. My patient said he knew this was weird, laughed politely and beat a hasty exit. Their visit lasted less than five minutes. 

Yeah, that was a real joke all right. 

And so is what you’re about to read from Dr. Alan Feiger, a Colorado physician who documented his trip to a marijuana dispensary in Venice Beach, Calif., on March 12, 2012.

Dr. Feiger writes:

While on the boardwalk, I saw many marijuana dispensaries. Standing just outside them were young people dressed in green, twirling signs to hawk the shops’ services.

“Get your marijuana license for only $40!” one dispensary trumpeted.

As a physician, I do not use marijuana — but this seemed like a real bargain. So, I decided to check it out.

Inside, there was a long line made up mostly of young men and women. A staff person took my Colorado driver’s license and directed me to a waiting room with more than a dozen other “patients” who also had been handed a questionnaire. As I completed the form, I included several fabricated details that would signal to any responsible doctor that I had no business using marijuana: 

  • Marijuana helped minimally with my back pain. 
  • I had a history of alcohol abuse and nicotine addiction. 
  • I had been hospitalized for depression and anxiety. 
  • I had experienced asthmatic attacks with marijuana use. 
  • I worked as a long-distance truck driver.

Satisfied with my bogus answers, I handed over the questionnaire and was ushered to a courtyard, where an elderly man who identified himself as a doctor — but offered no proof of licensure — sat behind a makeshift desk before another long line of young “patients.” When I finally reached the desk, the “doctor” never looked at me — much less looked me in the eye. He never read my questionnaire. He provided no patient confidentiality. He didn’t take a patient history. He didn’t give me a physical exam. He gave no warnings about the side effects of marijuana use. He didn’t ask about my job — but if he had, I’m sure he wouldn’t have cared if I actually were driving 18-wheelers.

However, he did suggest I take mega-doses of Vitamin D for my (fictitious) back pain — which is not a customary prescription for such an ailment. 

Then, he handed me the marijuana license, which, he said, was valid in California and Colorado. There was no need for me to follow up until a year later, he added. 

Our visit — if you could call it that — lasted less than two minutes.

The doctor’s work wasn’t safe or responsible — and it certainly wasn’t medicine.

About Chris Thurstone

Dr. Christian Thurstone is one of only a few dozen physicians in the United States who are board-certified in general, child and adolescent and addictions psychiatry. He is Director of Behavioral Health Services at Denver Health and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado, where he conducts research on youth substance use and addiction and serves as director of medical training for the university’s addiction psychiatry fellowship program. You can read more about him here.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!