Case of the Doctor Without a Doctor's Note For Marijuana Possession

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What the doctor ordered
Have you ever called the police to complain about a reckless driver on the road and wondered if cops tried to catch the person?

On a November 2007 night, a motorist in Orange County called the cops to complain about another driver veering wildly in and out of traffic. The police checked the license plate of the vehicle in question, drove the owner's house, knocked on the door and asked Dr. Paul F. Reardon to explain his driving behavior.

The Newport Beach psychiatrist explained that he "must have veered out of his lane" while "paying attention" to his two children in the back seat, according to court records.

But the officer remained suspicious. He got Reardon to consent to a search of his vehicle. When the cop opened the door, he smelled "a strong odor of marijuana" and found 16.36 grams of weed, a joint and a smoked joint. Because the doctor didn't have a, well, doctor's medical marijuana prescription, the officer charged him with a misdemeanor.

By 2008, Reardon had completed an eight-hour drug diversion program, got a judge to dismiss the charge from his record and thought the matter was behind him.

It wasn't.

Eight months later, an investigator for the Medical Board of California sought an interview with Reardon based on the pot-possession charge. The doctor refused to comply; the board then issued a subpoena to compel his cooperation in its investigation of his alleged unprofessional conduct. A Superior Court judge then ordered the doctor to grant the interview. 

Reardon refused and appealed, claiming the medical board had no constitutional right to violate his privacy and had issued an overly broad subpoena in a "fishing expedition." In other words, the doctor believed the board was overreacting to an "arrest for possession of a small quantity of marijuana . . . a low-level criminal offense."

A three-justice panel at a California Court of Appeal in Santa Ana this week rejected the doctor's argument.

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Doctor, why are your eyes bloodshot?
​"Physicians who choose to practice medicine in California are subject to licensing requirements and standards of professional conduct under a lawful regulatory scheme and have no reasonable expectation of privacy concerning adherence to these requirements and standards," wrote Justice Raymond Ikola on behalf of justices William Rylaarsdam and Kathleen O'Leary. "The board is in a preliminary investigational stage to determine whether a problem exists."

Reardon had argued that there was no evidence of any problem worthy of a government probe. But the justices stated they would not support the doctor's attempt "to trivialize" the state's Health and Safety Code. They observed that it was not just a possession case, but possession plus erratic driving. 

"Such possession shows a lack of judgment, a breach of a duty to the public and an inability or willingness to obey the law," Justice Ikola concluded.

Dr. Reardon must now pay the medical board's court costs and, unless the state Supreme Court says otherwise, will be finally sitting down with that investigator.

In 2006, the board issued a "public reprimand" against Reardon for excessively supplying narcotics to a drug addict and failing to maintain proper medical records. 

In an online review website for doctors, Reardon's patients gave him and his practice superior reviews.

--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly

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