This unsatisfactory state of affairs exists due to the enormous backlog of medical marijuana card applications; officials just cannot examine the documents produced in sufficient depth because they have so many to get through. There are 5,000 new applications for a medical marijuana card each week in Colorado and it takes six months or more for these applications to be processed.
One doctor who has been caught up in this card ‘black market’ is Doctor Phil Nguyen, who has seen at least fifteen medical marijuana applications bearing his signature from patients he has never seen. Because Colorado marijuana legislation allows the use of a doctor’s certificate to support the purchase of medical cannabis in lieu of a license, these fake certificates give fraudsters the freedom to obtain marijuana in an apparently legal manner.
One of Doctor Nguyen’s patients, Gregory Johnson, was found to be using white-out to obscure his own name and date of birth before selling copies on. Once in possession of a blank, signed certificate, buyers could personalise them and use them with ease in a medical marijuana dispensary.
One purchaser of a fake document, who works in a courthouse, used her bogus certificate to purchase medical marijuana from six dispensaries before being caught.
Johnson’s mother confirmed that he was selling the documents from her home, having told her, ‘I license people for medical marijuana for a doctor.’
Another provider of fake documents, a black woman, claiming to be Dr Rita Starritt, provided signed certificates to at least six patients. The real Dr Rita Starritt is, in fact, white.
The Blue Sky Care Clinic in Denver told of a doctor they used to examine hundreds of patients and provide certification – until they discovered that this doctor was working under a restricted license from the Board of Medical Examiners. He is no longer authorised to write prescriptions.
In an attempt to improve the situation, a new computer system is being developed and 25 new workers are to be employed but even then one official estimates that it’s likely to be a full twelve months before the applications office is up-to-date.