August 23, 2013 By Wallin & Klarich

Owners of medical marijuana clinics may be charged with unlawful practice of medicine (California Business & Professions Code Section 2052) even if they did not see patients or issue recommendations.

Medical Marijuana Clinic Owners Charged in California


In Southern California, two individuals were charged with practicing medicine without a license pursuant to California Business & Professions Code Section 2052. The individuals own a corporation that operates medical marijuana clinics in which licensed physicians issued medical marijuana recommendations to patients. A Medical Board Investigator began investigating the medical marijuana clinic by meeting with the physicians who practice out of the local clinics. During the investigation, it was discovered that the physicians had set working hours and received approximately one-third of the daily profits from patients. Undercover agents went to the Southern California clinics and met with physicians who provided medical marijuana recommendations.

In time, the Los Angeles County District Attorney filed a felony complaint alleging that the two individuals were practicing medicine without a license. The defendants sought dismissal of the charges on the grounds that they did not actually treat any patients. A judge agreed and granted the motion to dismiss the charge of practicing medicine without a license, finding that Business and Professions Code section 2052 only applies to persons who actively treat patients. However, the Los Angeles County District Attorney appealed and argued that Business and Professions Code section 2052 did apply to the defendant’s conduct. The court of appeal agreed with the district attorney and found that the trial court erred by dismissing the count for practicing medicine without a license.

What is Practicing Medicine Without a License? (California Business & Professions Code Section 2052)

California Business and Professions Code section 2052 provides, in part, that “any person who practices or attempts to practice…any system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted in this state, or who diagnoses, treats, operates for, or prescribes for any ailment…or other physical or mental condition of any person” without a valid, unrevoked or unsuspended certificate is guilty of a public offense. The district attorney argued that, because it is illegal for a person without a license to practice “any system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted,” it is illegal to operate “medical clinics to treat sick people by exclusively prescribing marijuana and selling it to them.” The court of appeal agreed with the district attorney.

As co-owners of the medical marijuana clinics, the defendants operated the clinics solely for the purpose of providing medical marijuana recommendations. They controlled the operations of the clinics by employing licensed physicians to issue recommendations for medical marijuana, setting the physician’s hours, collecting fees from the patients, and paying the physicians a percentage of those fees. The court concluded that the defendant’s were not released from liability because they did not actually examine any patients or prescribe medical marijuana. The court stated, “Section 2052 clearly prohibits an unlicensed person from either ‘practicing…any system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted or diagnosing, treating, or prescribing for any disease or ailment.'”

What Wallin & Klarich Thinks

At Wallin and Klarich we fight every day to defend our clients who find themselves accused of a violation of our state drug laws. Many of those laws are overly harsh for minor offenses and should be abolished. We will continue to fight to see that one day this happens. Call us at (888) 280-6839 for a free consultation now. We will be there when you call.

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