Medical marijuana patient appeals over denied applications striking out

Around 190 patients caught up in the physician assistant debacle last winter have appealed the decision by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to deny their medical marijuana registry application.

But they haven't been going well from the patients' perspective.

Last winter, the CDPHE announced that as many as 4,200 applications were under scrutiny after a number of physician assistants were found to have performed the patient evaluation instead of an actual doctor. Of that number, around 500 patients were outright denied and forced to wait six months before reapplying -- punishment, more or less, for sending in what the CDPHE sees as a fraudulent application.

According to CDPHE spokesman Mark Salley, none of the appeals heard so far have been granted. And from what we have heard from the CDPHE and from patients, it doesn't sound like many -- if any -- will.

We caught up with Richard Hart, a 58-year-old retired nurse who was rejected in January for seeing a physician's assistant instead of a doctor. Hart, who suffers back and neck pain he attributes to years of lifting patients on the job, said that he never questioned seeing a physician assistant -- something that is quite normal for other types of evaluations.

Hart explained that to the judge at his hearing, which was among one of the first cases to be heard. But the judge sided with the CDPHE, meaning Hart will have to wait until June 1 before reapplying for a red card.

Hart says that after he took the stand and made his lengthy plea, the appeals process was changed; people after him were only asked if they were the patients in question and if they had seen a doctor. He says it was clear to him that the court had already made a decision on all of the cases.

"If the answer was no, you were dismissed," Hart said. "They didn't want allow any dialogue. They were streamlining the process."

In the meantime, Hart says he has been able to stay away from using pharmaceutical painkillers. He also says he looks forward to June 1 and having the security of a red card in his wallet.

Other patients decided it wasn't worth the time and effort to fight. A woman who contacted us and asked not to be named says she was scheduled for a hearing on March 23. When she showed up, the judge told her he had already dismissed her case, adding that she should have received something in the mail explaining his decision. Since she hadn't, he gave her the option of writing up a rebuttal to his decision or letting the decision stand.

The patient says she figures that by the time a court date was set and a decision was handed down, it would be close to the six months she originally had to wait after being denied.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana advocates collecting petitions to overturn Fort Collins ban" and "Medical marijuana: Dacono mulls dispensary ban."

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William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes