San Luis Obispo doctor on probation over pot prescriptions

September 1, 2014
Dr. Atsuko Rees

Dr. Atsuko Rees

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.

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Turquoise

Atsuko Rees is a wonderful doctor.


She was my “preferred provider” before this happened, but Central Coast Physician’s Network (a middleman between my health insurance and me) informed her patients, without explanation, that she’d been dropped from their roster and we had to find new doctors. Several thousand people were affected.


I really appreciate Dr. Rees’ knowledge of medicine, including herbal and Ayurvedic, in addition to standard Western-style practices. Dr. Rees gave me attention and remembered me and my issues from visit to visit.


Because I was prescribed by another doctor a very expensive drug that caused a heart-attack within 12 hours of the first injection, I do not trust many pharmaceuticals. At the hospital the cardiologist pushed me to get a stent, which I know now is a very expensive operation that doesn’t actually help people in my situation. I was scared and ill-advised.


I want the choice to be able to use herbs and other therapies. It’s my body, my choice.


One other thing, in relation to this whole crazy witch hunt, is that the person who went in and lied about their symptoms in order to get marijuana was breaking the law. Doesn’t matter that they were law enforcement. They subverted the intent and the rules of the law by lying about having injuries.


standup

That person who lied about their so called “back pain” was the infamous Amy “Dobson” Chastain of the SLO PD. Hope she is real proud of what she did.


agag1

Police routinely conduct alcohol and tobacco stings, using underage decoys.

Why should this be treated differently?


jimmy_me

Wow! So you close down one person who provides referrals. I feel much safer now. If you need a referral now, you go to another local doctor that offers referrals. I’m sure the other places are more than happy for the business. Gee… maybe the other businesses stuff more protection money into the brown paper bag they hand over to law enforcement…


The entire system is corrupt. I begged my radiation oncologist to write me a referral, but he would not. When I asked why, he told me because he did not want his business shut down. The system prevents legitimate practicing doctors from writing referrals out of fear. The result is other “doctors” stepping up and happily taking home $10k/day. The system is broken; I’m glad it sort of works for people who have the need and/or desire to use cannabis, even if it comes at a price.


Gordo

I thought the Compassionate Use Act was about helping terminally ill cancer and AIDs patients, not about lining the pockets of doctors and weed dealers.

I don’t think anyone would give a person any grief who was growing a few plants to provide marijuana for a sick spouse, child, sibling or parent, but this kind of greedy nonsense knocks the legs out of the argument for medical marijuana.

We need commonsense marijuana laws. Either legalize and tax it, thus putting the medical quacks out of business or enact some actual controls that ensure that granny gets her medicine without giving refuge to drug cartels and crooked doctors.

It is time for an honest discussion about our drug laws in this country.


bsdetective007

What are you thinking? At least she’s legal! What would work better keeping it on the table and the WEED GROWERS pay taxes or creating underground traffickers with tax evasion. You’re just having a bad attitude because you don’t have the ability to do what she does. I bet you voted for Obama too.


zaphod

a healthy majority of Americans voted for your president,what ever that has to do with Dr Rees we shall leave to the reader to decide.


SLO_Johnny

$9000 to $17,500 in one day. I’m sending my daughter to medical school.


ml1999

Is it just me, or does the doctor also look stoned?


Jorge Estrada

Your spot on, I thought the same thing but I did not want to mention here squinty eyes because of the racial flack spinners.


bsdetective007

Racist!


bsdetective007

It’s your ignorance that you see.


ml1999

Given that the Ivy League recently proved that pot causes harm to three different areas of the teenage brain, I think we should take it very seriously. Previous studies also proved that pot use can reduce the IQ of a teenager by up to ten percent. Given these facts, I’d think we would at least have a hard limited of 21, like booze, and prohibit young people from even getting a cannibis card. The Hypocratic Oath even said, “First, do no harm.”


Jorge Estrada

What’s the stethoscope around her neck for….now inhale, deeper, hold it……… Ok, you are qualified?


LAH

2010, 2012?? Why are we talking about this old story? Come on people, lets get with current affairs!


kayaknut

It takes the government this long to do anything, good or bad.


SLOBIRD

I’m surprised that Obama and the Senate have not passed legislation on this because surely there must be votes attached to this action like the women’s rights, immigration, racial profiling (they loved the situation in Ms and helped fuel it with Sharpton), no military action, food stamps for anyone, healthcare for everyone, etc., etc… Oh yea, they would probably forget who to vote for by the time the election period comes around!


Paso_Guy

Not having my pit bull with me at Lowes caused me to have great anxiety,but Dr. Rees fixed me up and allowed me to adjust to the separation.


achillesheal

A separate prescription for your pit bull could mellow him/her out as well. You may have to increase your budget for doggie doritos, though.


agag1

Landlords no longer have the right not to rent their property to pet owners if the perspective tennant claims to have a service animal.

Purchase a service dog vest off the internet, and viola! Instant service dog, or pig, or???

Of course there are people who honestly need their service pets, they provide an invaluable service to their owners. But you can see the opportunity for abuse, as with so many other things.

BTW, I’m an animal lover/owner.