He has called himself "Dr. Marijuana". His real name is Dr. Anthony Anzalone and he was among the first physicians to participate in New Jersey’s medicinal marijuana program (MMP). He has now been suspended from practicing medicine for referring several thousand patients for certification in New Jersey's MMP. Dr. Anzalone is the first doctor to jeopardize his license by “indiscriminately authorizing” more than 3,000 patients. Some of these patients would have never qualified for the program. Some of the patients referred were not even examined by Anzalone.
Photo source: UnSplash.com
At first, it sounds like this is a case of some sort of discrimination against Dr. Anzalone for being such an advocate of medical marijuana. However, the details are much more sordid. Apparently, Anzalone, an obstetrician and gynecologist, met patients in rented hotel ballrooms across the state and charged them $350 for an initial visit. He then charged another $100 every quarter to re-up each patient’s registration in the program. In total, the doctor authorized 3,250 patients over four years. It is estimated that Anzalone likely made more than $1 million, and that is just from consulting fees.
Dr. Anzalone was accused of exploiting patients for his own gain. Like some sort of medical malpractice sting movie, Anzalone was exposed by investigators posing as patients. In suspending the doctor's license, New Jersey authorities demonstrated that they "[would] not allow unscrupulous doctors to enrich themselves at the expense of the safety and welfare of their patients and the public.”
Photo source: UnSplash.com
New Jersey became the 14th U.S. state to legalize marijuana for medical use in 2012. Under the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA), doctors were able to prescribe medical marijuana by registering with the state and recommending their patients for certification with the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP). Alternative Treatment Centers (ATC) began dispensing medical marijuana to New Jersey medical marijuana patients on December 2, 2012.
This is not Dr. Anzalone's first brush with controversy. In 2016 he was evicted from his private practice office when the leasing company learned he was recommending medical marijuana to patients. The leasing company was uneasy given marijuana's federal status as an illegal drug. To remedy this setback, Anzalone set up a traveling practice in hotel boardrooms across New Jersey. It was in these boardrooms where he allegedly started indiscriminately registering patients in New Jersey's MMP.
According to the Attorney General’s office, “Dr. Anzalone failed to adhere to even the most fundamental rules of New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program, a program carefully regulated to meet the public’s need for compassionate treatment alternatives while preventing unlawful marijuana distribution and use”. As for Dr. Anzalone, his lawyer claims his innocence and states that he is a "very popular doctor that takes great care of his patients." and that "He is a trailblazer in this industry.” By industry, we hope he means the medical marijuana industry, not the medical malpractice one.