San Luis Obispo doctor on probation over pot prescriptions
September 1, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
A San Luis Obispo physician who wrote 30,000 prescriptions for medical marijuana in three years has begun a probated sentence. Dr. Atsuko Rees, subject of an exclusive CalCoastNews story, had her medical license suspended for 45 days and remains under probation.
Dr. Rees would see as many as 60 to 70 patients on Fridays, charging $150 to $250 per patient and then writing them prescriptions for marijuana. California law allows physicians to prescribe marijuana, but the law requires that doctors conduct an examination of each patient themselves.
In October, 2010, an undercover San Luis Obispo police officer posing as a patient and claiming to be suffering from back pain went to Dr. Rees at Family Medical on Higuera Street.
Instead of diagnosing the patient herself, Dr. Rees had her physician’s assistant Mary Eanes conduct the evaluation in violation of the law, according to charges filed by the California Attorney General’s Office against Dr. Rees.
At that time, both Dr. Rees and Eanes would approve patients’ medical marijuana status. However, to comply with California law, Dr. Rees would sign off on patients as if she had seen each patient personally, former co-workers told CalCoastNews.
In another undercover operation, an officer posed as a patient seeking a prescription for medical marijuana. Dr. Rees wrote in the patient’s medical record that she performed a medical examination. The officer said she did not and that Dr. Rees began writing the prescription less than three minutes after the examination began. The whole appointment lasted less than six minutes, according to the allegations made by the attorney general’s office.
In 2012, the California Attorney General’s Office filed the accusation brought against Dr. Rees by the Medical Board of California for the following seven causes of discipline: gross negligence in the care and treatment of patients, repeated acts of negligence, incompetence, creation of false medical records, employing a person to procure patients, giving rebates for patient referrals, and failure to use her name in advertising.
Last year, Dr. Rees agreed to a stipulated settlement and disciplinary order in which she lost her license for 45 days and was placed on five years’ probation.
“It is hereby ordered that Physicians and Surgeons Certificate No. C 41745 issued to respondent Atsuko Rees M.D. is revoked,” The settlement says. “However, the revocation is stayed and respondent (Dr. Rees) is placed on probation for five years on the following terms and conditions.”
Those terms included the 45 day suspension, the taking of multiple courses in prescribing practices and medical ethics, hiring a person to monitor her practice and a ban from supervising physician assistants.
After serving her 45 day suspension, Dr. Rees went back to dispensing medical marijuana recommendations at Rees family Medical in San Luis Obispo.
Get breaking news first, like CalCoastNews on Facebook.