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Operation of medical marijuana clinics is practice of medicine

The business operation of medical marijuana clinics in California requires a medical license, a state appeals court ruled July 31

(People v. Superior Court, Sean Cardillo and Andrew Cettei, real parties in interest).

Sean Cardillo and Andrew Cettei, who operated two medical marijuana clinics in Venice, California, were not licensed physicians but, in an attempt to comply with California law, the two contracted with physicians to work at the clinics. While lease agreements between the pair and the clinic doctors showed the doctors to nominally be in charge of the facilities, the agreements also directed two thirds of the clinic’s profits to Cardillo and Cettei.

After an investigation by the state medical board, Cardillo and Cettei were criminally charged with practicing medicine without a license on the grounds that their operation of the clinics was the practice of medicine. Both objected, arguing that they could not be charged with unlicensed practice of medicine because they never actively treated patients.

This argument met with success before a magistrate and a trial court and the charges were dismissed. However, prosecutors appealed and the case went to a Court of Appeal in Los Angeles.

That court, in a decision written by Justice Thomas Willhite, reversed the lower courts’ decisions and remanded the case. Quoting the argument of the prosecutors trying the case, Willhite wrote that the unlicensed practice statute “makes it illegal for an unlicensed person to ‘practice … any system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted,’ which would include ‘the operation of medical clinics to treat sick people by exclusively prescribing marijuana and selling it to them.'”