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In January, new Gov. Doug Ducey will appoint a new director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The director’s term coincides with the governor’s.
Three films into the four-movie franchise and “The Hunger Games” series remains one of cinema’s biggest teases. For two years the series has offered an underlying promise of some grand battle between good and evil loaded with flaming arrows and bodies being tossed about with little regard for the lives of the stunt people.
PHOENIX — Doctors who recommend marijuana to patients can't be charged with crimes even if they did not follow the procedures required by law, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
The judges acknowledged that Robert Gear, a Phoenix naturopath with offices in several communities, had been charged with recommending the drug to a patient without having access to 12 months of her medical records. That is a requirement under the law.
Gear was indicted on charges of forgery and fraudulent schemes after saying on a form required by the Department of Health Services that he had, in fact, seen those records.
But Judge Patricia Norris, writing for the unanimous appellate court, said what Gear or did not do is legally irrelevant. She said the 2010 voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act specifically bars criminal charges against any physician who certifies that a patient is likely to benefit from the drug.
Norris said a contrary ruling would be bad public policy.
"Criminal scrutiny and prosecution of physicians for certifying patients for medical marijuana use would have a chilling effect on the voluntary participation of physicians, and, thereby, hinder qualifying patients' efforts to obtain competent medical advice regarding medical marijuana, its medical risks, and its alleged therapeutic and palliative benefits,'' the judge wrote.
Thursday's decision upset Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon
"I'm just disappointed there are no consequences for doctors that don't follow the rules on how to prescribe a medical marijuana card,'' he said.
But Kimberly Kent, the attorney who represents Gear, said the law is clear. She said a doctor who determines marijuana is appropriate for a patient is immune from criminal prosecution.
Kent said it's a separate question of whether Gear might face some discipline, either by the health department or the board that regulates naturopaths.
Arizona law allows those with certain medical conditions to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. But they must first get a written recommendation from a doctor.
Court records say that a confidential informant working for the county's drug task force went to Gear to get such a recommendation. She completed a medical questionnaire and medical records statement provided by Gear's staff and disclosed information about her medical history and physical condition.
She also said she had seen other doctors in the past 12 months but did not "have a complete set of medical records'' with her. But she agreed she would either request that her records be sent to Gear or would bring them to her on her next visit.
Based on his examination of the woman, Gear certified the woman for medical marijuana use. He also completed a form which said he had "reviewed the qualifying patient's medical records, including medical records from other treating physicians from the previous 12 months.''
Norris said there is no legal basis for the charge.
She said the 2010 law provides immunity for any case in which a doctor certifies that "a patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the medical use of marijuana.'' And Norris said that is exactly what Gear did.
The question of whether he was not truthful on the form does not strip Gear of that immunity, she said, particularly as that requirement to review 12 months' worth of medical records is not required under the law but instead a regulation by the health department.
"Dr. Gear did not lose his statutory immunity merely because he completed the mandated DHS form,'' Norris wrote.
Beyond that, she said the immunity extends beyond delivering the certification sought by the patient.
"It also encompasses a physician's actions in preparing and completing the written certification,'' Norris said.
State Health Director Will Humble, whose agency enacted the rules about the medical records and designed the form, declined to comment on Thursday's ruling.
Follow Howard Fischer on Twitter at @azcapmedia.
‘Dance is my first and best language,” Jessica Lang tells me, with a smile I can hear through the phone. Lang is a tour de force in the dance world; after being a freelance choreographer for 15 years she founded her own dance company in 2011 and has been devoting herself to the development of Jessica Lang Dance. “I was producing a lot as a freelance choreographer, but I didn’t feel like I was living up to my potential. Now I feel like I am building something that is very important and valued.”
The holiday catalogs and gift guides are starting to pour in, full of wonderful stuff to wrap for friends and family. But what about those who don't really want more stuff?
Arizona's charter schools are not entitled to another $135 million of taxpayer funds, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona is launching a statewide effort to raise awareness about sex trafficking.
PHOENIX -- The number of people in Arizona illegally dropped by close to 12 percent between 2009 and 2012 according to a new study.
A comic book store specializing in graphic novels, gaming and collectables opened in a new and more profitable location in Mesa this month.
The Great Globe Project developed at the East Valley Institute of Technology is drawing crowds and fascinating young minds at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix.
The Mesa Riverview area is getting a massive boost to its hospitality accommodations in the form of Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ Sheraton River View Hotel. The four-story, 160,000-plus-square-foot facility, directly adjacent to Cubs Park, will feature views of the park and easy access to games, allowing baseball fans to stay as close to the action as physically possible.
Another election season has come and gone. You might reasonably conclude that, once again, no ballot fraud occurred in Arizona, from the absence of any news accounts. But that’s almost certainly not true.
The fact that politics may have been involved in drawing legislative lines is no reason to declare them illegal, the attorney for the Independent Redistricting Commission is urging the U.S. Supreme Court.
Shoppers at the Chandler Fashion Center now have a new place to shop for high-tech items with the opening of the Microsoft Store last week.
Rendering of the Sports Bar in the Sheraton Hotel Mesa. [Courtesy of Ideation Design Group]
Rendering of the Lobby of the Sheraton Hotel Mesa. [Courtesy Ideation Design Group]
Rendering of the Gourmet Restaurant in the Sheraton Hotel Mesa (Courtesy Ideation Design Group
GILBERT – Olivia Fairchild couldn’t hold it in anymore; not after nearly jinxing the Desert Vista girls volleyball.
PHOENIX -- Arizona is one of the best states in the nation for fighting lung cancer and its costs, according to a new report.
An East Valley native-turned-Nashville-singer-and-songwriter plans to celebrate his musical journey in the place where it all started.
Three Scouts from Chandler and Mesa recently achieved the Boy Scouts of America’s Eagle Scout rank, something few Boy Scouts achieve.
A Tempe High School teacher and his students will create Arizona’s ornament for the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on Dec. 4.
PHOENIX -- Maricopa County prosecutors want the Arizona Supreme Court to rule that "dark money'' groups cannot anonymously say nasty things about candidates just because they don't mention the upcoming election.