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Updated Friday, November 9, 2012 at 06:56 AM

Hempfest naturopath's pot authorization leads to state suspension

By Maureen O'Hagan
Seattle Times staff reporter

A naturopath lost her license to practice medicine for two years for improperly doling out medical-marijuana authorizations at last year's Hempfest in Seattle.

If Carolyn Lee Bearss wants her credentials reinstated, she must also pay a $50,000 fine — higher than the typical fine due to the egregiousness of the conduct, said Department of Health spokesman Tim Church.

The suspension order said her practice at Hempfest was an "assembly line" that "failed to meet the standard of care."

It was "designed to quickly move patients through, charge them money, give them their authorization, and get ready for the next one," Church said. "That's not how patients should be treated."

He noted that of the 106 patients Bearss saw that weekend, 105 received authorizations, at $150 to $200 each.

At the time, she was working as a contractor for 4 Evergreen Group, a Seattle clinic that specializes in medical-marijuana authorizations.

Bearss maintains she did nothing wrong: that she was practicing sound medicine, following the medical-cannabis laws and treating patients according to their needs.

She maintains, as well, that there are no specific standards of practice for naturopaths in Washington.

"Rather than setting standards, I feel myself and my colleagues are being used as examples," she said. "It's backward. It's not judicious."

She said she wasn't able, financially, to fight the charges. She has since moved to Canada.

According to the suspension order, Bearss averaged less than 15 minutes with each patient at Hempfest; she used boilerplate language in her charts and did not recommend further tests to nail down diagnoses.

Under Washington law, doctors may authorize marijuana only for patients who have "terminal or debilitating" medical conditions such as AIDS, seizure disorders or "some forms of intractable pain."

Another naturopath, Dimitrios "Jimmy" Magiasis, was charged with misconduct by the Health Department at the same time as Bearss, under similar circumstances.

Of the 110 patients he saw at Hempfest, 109 walked away with an authorization. His case is still pending.

They were the first Washington medical providers facing disciplinary action in connection with writing marijuana authorizations.

Maureen O'Hagan: 206-464-2562 or mohagan@seattletimes.com


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