Basin doctor says he's targeted for prescribing marijuana

EPHRATA — A Grant County doctor and former U.S. Senate candidate charged with unprofessional conduct blasted state medical regulators Thursday, saying they're targeting him because he authorizes patients to use medical marijuana to treat chronic pain.

"It is discrimination. It is politics," said Dr. Mohammad H. Said of Ephrata. "It is because I am outspoken."

The Medical Quality Assurance Commission -- the state agency that oversees medical licensing -- charged Said with unprofessional conduct Jan. 31 based on allegations he had violated a previous agreement restricting him from treating chronic pain patients with controlled substances for more than a 90-day period.

Charges by the commission are not criminal. Penalties can include probation, suspension or revocation of a medical license.

The July 2008 agreement was the result of unprofessional conduct charges filed in March 2007 alleging Said had prescribed narcotic pain medications known as opioids to patients:

- Without sufficiently verifying or documenting the underlying complaints.

- Without sufficiently examining the patient.

- Without acquiring or reviewing prior medical records.

- Without obtaining or documenting a sufficient patient history including opioid experience.

- Without sufficiently obtaining or documenting outside treatments or consultations.

- And without sufficiently documenting prescription information.

He is claimed in the 2007 charges to have had an inappropriate social relationship with two patients, including renting a mobile home to one of them, ignoring signs that prescription drugs were being abused and to have failed to heed warnings that one patient was a drug addict and did not need pain medication.

That patient died of a prescription drug overdose, commission documents said.

The 2008 agreement included a provision that Said was to phase out the chronic pain management portion of his practice by Dec. 31 of that year.

After that date, he was prohibited from treating chronic pain using controlled substances for more than 90 days, with the exception of cancer patients, those with terminal illnesses and nursing home patients.

Said told the Herald on Thursday he was railroaded into signing that order because he couldn't afford the tens of thousands of dollars it would have cost to have a lawyer defend him.

"It was coercion," he said.

The latest charges allege that Said's contract with CBR Medical, a company that paid him $1,500 per day to see batches of medical marijuana patients, led him to violate the terms of his 2009 agreement by providing patients authorizations lasting longer than 90 days.

The documents gave three examples of authorizations investigators apparently deemed inappropriate:

- A 24-year-old man being treated for drug and alcohol dependence in Okanogan County who reportedly told Said he needed marijuana to treat pain related to a back break while weightlifting in 2002.

- An 18-year-old man for whom Said authorized medical marijuana and prescribed oxycodone for pain from back injuries sustained in a car accident.

- And a 22-year-old female who experienced painful bronchial spasms related to asthma.

The documents also detailed six other patients for whom Said is alleged to have prescribed a variety of narcotic pain medications beyond the restrictions in the 2008 order.

Said defended his work with medical marijuana patients, saying he has written authorizations for more than 10,000 patients across the state -- including in Kennewick, Wenatchee and Tacoma.

He said he sits with each patient for 20 to 30 minutes before writing the authorization, talking to each and reviewing individual medical histories.

He believes about 90 percent of the people he has seen already were self-medicating with marijuana, which he said believes is safer and more effective than opioids.

He vowed to fight the latest round of charges and said this time he has a lawyer.

"I feel my civil rights have been violated," he said. "I am being targeted, no doubt about it. I just keep going."

Said ran for U.S. Senate in 2010 as a self-described "Centrist," although he also has past ties to the Grant County Democrats, according to his website.

He drew 3,387 votes in the August primary.

* Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com