CHICAGO –The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) urges both physicians and members of the public to be cautious about setting up or visiting so-called “medical cannabis clinics.” The Department issued this warning in the wake of filing a formal complaint against a physician for violating the Medical Practice Act and the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. While regulations for growing, dispensing and registering patients for the legal use of medical cannabis were approved by a legislative committee on July 15, no licenses have been issued for growing or dispensing cannabis and no physician certification forms are yet available.
Patient, Caregiver, and Physician Certification applications will be available in August, and those interested will be given several weeks to prepare their applications prior to filing. In the meantime, until Physician Certification Forms are issued by Department of Public Health, no Illinois-licensed physician may certify patients for legal purchase of medical cannabis.
Patients suffering from the illnesses or symptoms listed in the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act should use this time to discuss the pros and cons of medical cannabis with their treating physicians and determine whether the use of the product will improve their quality of life.
Unlike laws in many other states, Illinois’ Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act only permits a physician who has a bona fide physician-patient relationship and is treating the patient’s qualifying debilitating medical condition to certify them for use of medical cannabis.
“The decision to use medical cannabis as part of a patient’s ongoing treatment still requires adherence to appropriate standards of care. Patients and physicians should be careful when a business holds itself out exclusively as a ‘medical cannabis clinic,” IDFPR Acting Secretary Manuel Flores said. “We will continue to aggressively prosecute people taking advantage of patients who may be eligible for medical cannabis.”
Regulators today filed a formal complaint against Dr. Joseph Starkman for establishing a cannabis clinic and operating that clinic in violation of both the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act and the Medical Practice Act.
IDFPR learned that Starkman had established himself, and his business as a cannabis clinic, doing business as “Integr8 Illinois.” The complaint asserts that in late 2013, Dr. Starkman required a 79 year-old patient to pay a fee of $250 before his appointment. He then met with the patient and accepted medical paperwork that showed he had been diagnosed with glaucoma by another doctor. Dr. Starkman spent about 35 minutes with the patient, declared him eligible for medical cannabis and promised to mail him an official certificate for use at Illinois licensed cannabis dispensaries. Dr. Starkman did not perform an eye exam of the patient.
A copy of the complaint against Dr. Starkman and the alleged certificate offered to a patient can be found here.
In January 2014, the patient received what appeared to be an official State of Illinois Physician certification document, including the Seal of the State of Illinois and contact information for the Illinois Department of Public Health. That certificate was not issued by IDPH and is not valid for the purposes described.