Naturopath Group Suspends Members For Consulting in Medical Dispensaries

The College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia says it has suspended one of its members after he was found to be using Skype for medical consultations to help patients access medical cannabis from various dispensaries.

In a public notification posted to the group’s website, Dr. Jonas LaForge was suspended for a year, with $25,000 in fines, after he was found facilitating access to cannabis with “confirmation of diagnosis” letters.

The College says that, before the October 2015 notice was written, LaForge had been notified by a 2014 briefing from the group that laid out that naturopathic doctors couldn’t prescribe or recommend cannabis to patients.

The group’s internal documents to members say that naturopaths are not authorized “health care practitioners” under the current MMPR and are therefore not authorized to prescribe cannabis or issue medical documents to patients seeking medical cannabis.

“A letter or referral form signed by a naturopath physician to a local dispensary for medical cannabis has no legal authority,” said CNPBC registrar Howard Greenstein in the 2014 letter. “If you are signing letters or referral forms recommending that patients receive medicinal cannabis from dispensaries that are not authorized under the MMPR, you are required to immediately refrain from doing so.”

The letter was a response to an earlier Vancouver Sun article in which a reporter found a number of naturopaths were offering consultations at cannabis dispensaries.

“Dispensaries in the city skirt the law by teaming up with health professionals other than doctors and nurse practitioners, like naturopaths,” wrote Mike Hager. “When [naturopaths] issue a note they also make patients sign a release form agreeing not to ‘make any claim or complaint or commence any proceedings against’ them for applying to use marijuana through this grey market.”

The college’s investigations and regulatory compliance manager Sarah Pivnick said there have been several more cases where naturopaths have been found to be involved with medical cannabis dispensaries.

“There have been five cases where the College has taken action regarding registrants’ involvement with medical marijuana,” Pivnick said, in an email. “One further case containing allegations of this nature is currently under investigation.”

Click here to read the 2014 CNPBC notice to registrants regarding medicinal cannabis.