Hidden Camera Investigation: Medical Marijuana

(source: KKTV.com Colorado Springs, CO)

We've heard a lot of talk lately about medical marijuana. You may be among the voters who made it legal in 2001. Right now, more than 14,000 people are already legal to use pot, and the state is receiving about 600 to 800 new requests everyday.

A trip into Roy's Cannabis on east Platte in Colorado Springs turned into a trip to Denver for our 11 News cameraman who went undercover to try and get a medical marijuana card.

With no doctor on staff at Roy's, the dispensary drove our cameraman along with three others to a medical marijuana clinic north of Denver. With the camera rolling on the van ride up the conversation quickly turned to pot.

"Yea, I've been growing for about 30 years," the driver of the van said.

The van's destination was Green Medicals in Northglen. Our hidden camera shows a waiting room packed full of patients, most claiming they have some sort of chronic pain.

Our cameraman, who really does suffer from back pain, is asked to fill out additional paperwork because he doesn't have any medical records. The form asks him about his medical history and his family's medical history.

He pays a total of $226, $90 of which goes to the state for processing, while the rest stays at the clinic. His wait to see the doctor ends up being about three hours.

"You have an injury?" Doctor Joseph Montante asks him.

"My back, shoulders, feels like ice picks are going into them," says our cameraman.

A few more questions and Doctor Montante does his exam. The actual physical exam only lasts about 20 seconds. The whole doctor consultation about three minutes.

"I can get you certified today no problem," Dr. Montante said.

We went back to Green Medicals to talk to Dr. Montante. He was very upfront and honest about the process and told us his exams are always quick.

"The average examination that I do is anywhere between three to five minutes start to finish,” he said. “Please remember I have been in practice for 30 years, more like 35, it isn't like I started yesterday, I know what I'm doing here," Dr. Montante said.

He says a large majority of patients who come to see him are suffering from chronic pain. That’s one of eight conditions listed in the law. For patients under 21 years old, Dr. Montante does require medical records, but says he doesn't need them for those over 21 to make a diagnosis.

"If someone says they are in pain and they are suffering, it's the role of the physician to first believe the patient and then to validate that with an appropriate medical examination," Montante said. "I think the large majority of people that come in here are legitimate. I think they are suffering and taking synthetic drugs needlessly," Montante said.

And he believes marijuana can help them. "If the state legalizes as it has, medical marijuana for pain relief. Why not make it available to people who have a valid complaint and who choose that option?" said Montante. "We’re in it to help people and that's why I went into medicine. I really believe that [a] doctors role is to relieve suffering and God gave us plants that can help do that."

Because this process is completely legal we wanted to see what local law enforcement thought. We showed the video of our cameraman's doctor visit to a sergeant who works undercover with the Metro Vice Narcotics Unit in Colorado Springs.

He says the law is being abused. "Because the definition of chronic pain, I'm definitely not a physician, but it's such a broad term. I can go to a doctor right now and walk out with a prescription for medical marijuana," the Sergeant said.

Amendment 20 passed in 2001 made medical marijuana legal in our state and it included very few restrictions that the dispensaries and doctors must follow.

"From what I have seen it appears that they are following the state guidelines for it." That's the problem with the law, with the way it's written, it is pretty much a blanket statement that a physician can look at you and sign off saying you need marijuana," said the Sergeant.

In two weeks at Green Medicals the owner says they wrote a total of 603 referrals.

"There's a ton of money being made in medical marijuana right now and the people that are doing it legally know the loop holes in the law so they are exploiting those loop holes," the Sergeant said. “As long as that chronic pain thing is in there it's going to be hard to control.”

We also showed our video to State Representative Kent Lambert.

"I think it's just gone far beyond. The intent of the law is over and marijuana is basically legal just through these loop holes for anyone who wants to get it," Lambert said.

He says several lawmakers are already proposing legislation to put tighter regulations in place. He even thinks they may take it back to the voters in order to get the law changed.

Meanwhile clinics like Green Medicals are getting busier everyday. And most who walk through the doors walk out with a referral just like our cameraman did to legally smoke pot.

Roy's Cannabis tells us they take their patients up to Green Medicals in Denver to get their licenses because it's the cheapest place around and they make several trips a week.

We’re told only about five doctors in the state are writing the majority of these medical marijuana referrals.

Under the current law. If you have a medical marijuana card you can possess up to two ounces of pot and grow up to six plants. If you are a "caregiver" for someone else you can legally have even more.

see source: Hidden Camera: Medical Marijuana

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