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Oakland Pot Doc Is Defrocked

It's hard to get in trouble for running a pot prescription mill in California, but one local doctor was so bad, he lost his medical license.



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For a time after that, Assad stopped seeing patient KS for sex, but continued to treat her as a patient and mistreat her personally. Medical board records state: "On more than one occasion in 1999, while patient KS was in an exam room after having received an injection for her migraine, [Assad] held her face in his hands and said something to the effect of 'I should have killed you when I had the chance.'"

In December 1999, the two again began having sex at a motel. But KS's troubled life apparently had become too much for her to bear. On March 7, 2000 after sleeping with Assad the night before, she tried to kill herself. She was held for psychiatric treatment at Kaiser, and entered an intensive outpatient program where she met a fellow male patient and offered him a temporary place to stay at her apartment. Assad found out about her new housemate and arranged another meeting at the motel.

"On or about March 26 or 27, 2000, during their meeting in a hotel room, [Assad] became violent after patient KS acknowledged seeing another man," states the official medical board complaint filed against Assad in 2001. "[Assad] threatened to kill KS if she spoke to anyone about [him]. [Assad] forcefully had violent sex with patient KS, against her will. Patient KS was fearful for her life. After this encounter, patient KS went to a hospital emergency room with a complaint of a terrible pain in her neck and back and numbness in her face."

The next day, on March 28, KS informed another physician at Kaiser what Assad had done. She filed a complaint of rape with the Vacaville police and detectives set up a sting to catch Assad at the motel. She then arranged a final meeting at the motel, and when Assad showed up, police arrested him.

Vacaville police sent the case to the Solano County District Attorney's Office, but prosecutors rejected it for insufficient evidence. Vacaville police Sergeant Denise Quatman said certain domestic violence cases lack proof beyond a reasonable doubt, making them tough to prosecute.

But KS wasn't the only female patient to complain about Assad. A patient "KR" filed a complaint with Kaiser in 1999 after Assad lifted up the back of her skirt during an examination for asthma, according to medical board records. He also lifted her and hugged her without cause. And a patient "MB" filed sexual battery charges with Vacaville police, according to medical board records, after she went to see Assad complaining of bronchial problems, and he put his fingers in her vagina.

Assad's misconduct involving his three female patients prompted the medical board to place him on probation for seven years. Medical board spokeswoman Candis Cohen called the stay of revocation a common procedure. "We bring them up to the brink of losing their license, and then pull them back and then we say, 'We're not going to revoke you so long as you remain on the straight and narrow during probation,'" she said. "That language is typical in a decision."

Cohen, however, could not explain why a reported rape and two reported sexual batteries did not earn Assad a full revocation in 2001, but prescribing pot would seven years later. She said perhaps the evidentiary burden on the medical board may have been too high. Yet in med board documents, Assad did not dispute the allegations and admits to misconduct and inappropriate behavior with KS and KR.

At any rate, the conditions of Assad's probation included a ninety-day suspension and mandatory courses on prescribing practices, ethics, plus a psychiatric evaluation. The board placed a two-year restriction on practicing solo, and prohibited him from examining or treating female patients. Assad stipulated to the conditions and to official misconduct on November 19, 2001. Soon after, he moved into the pot business.

Ever since Proposition 215 passed in 1996, there's been a boom in clinics run by doctors that only prescribe pot. According to Dr. Philip Denney, former president of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, there's an estimated 600,000 to 700,000 people with pot recommendations from a doctor, amid a field of perhaps 4 million California pot smokers. Anywhere from fifty to a few hundred doctors in the state do all the prescribing. No one counts them. They set up high-volume practices where they exclusively determine if marijuana would be an effective treatment for customer maladies.

Assad set up four such clinics starting in 2004 with offices in Arcata, Bakersfield, Ukiah, and the primary location in Oakland, where he employed one physician's assistant, two nurse practitioners, and office assistants. Fred Gardner, editor of leading cannabis journal O'Shaughnessy's, estimated that Assad issued 40,000 recommendations in five years and Assad stated in documents that nearly 100 percent of the people who sought a recommendation from him to use marijuana got one. One such customer was a patient that the medical board dubbed "SW," and he would be Assad's downfall.

Patient "SW" was a troubled teen. The Walnut Creek resident was a senior in high school with a history of mental issues that worried his parents. A few weeks before he turned eighteen, SW made an appointment to see Assad at his Oakland location. On February 3, 2007, the day after he turned eighteen, SW went to Assad's office to get a marijuana recommendation.

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