|Photo: Monroe County, FL Sheriff’s Department
CannaMed, which bills itself as Colorado’s largest medical marijuana evaluation company, is facing scrutiny for selling patient information to dispensaries and grow facilities so that those operations can show they are caring for enough patients to account for the cannabis they have on hand.
While CannaMed’s owner insists that he’s not doing anything wrong, his company could be greatly impacted by legislation now making its way through the State Capitol, reports Joel Warner at Denver Westworld
In December 2008, Mazin registered CannaMed with the state of Colorado. At the time, CannaMed was only the second medical marijuana evaluation clinic in the state, and the only for-profit one (the other was operated by the non-profit THC Foundation).
Now there are more than a dozen such operations in Colorado, but CannaMed is reportedly the largest.
CannaMed’s innovation was to provide patient names to caregivers in exchange for $350 one-year “sponsorships” paid to CannaMed. “People have sponsorships for everything,” Mazin said. “What we’re doing is good for the caregiver and good for the patients. We connect people.”
Noting that many people couldn’t afford a medical marijuana evaluation with CannaMed’s “financial aid” option, in which the patients’ info is sold to dispensary “sponsors,” Mazin said: “We have many satisfied patients.”
Over the past year, Warner
|Photo: Jim J. Narcy
|CannaMed’s David Mazin: “We have many satisfied customers”
reports, other medical marijuana evaluation companies such as Canna Health, Denver Longevity Clinic and Green Door Wellness Centers have started using Mazin’s concept of sponsorships.
Some dispensaries have now cut out the middleman altogether, hosting doctors onsite and offering financial incentives for patients who see those doctors to make the dispensary their caregiver.
Such arrangements, Warner reports, have helped fuel the dizzying growth of the state’s medical marijuana business.
“If I am a marijuana grower and I just moved into the state and I want to make big bucks, I can just go and buy patients,” said one Denver dispensary owner who said Mazin offered to sell him patients in blocks of 50. “I can get legal today, without having to meet any of the patients.”
Mazin said that the financial aid program is only a fraction of CannaMed’s business, involving just 20 percent of those who come in for a doctor’s evaluation. But former employees estimate that close to half of all CannaMed patients take the “financial aid” route.
“You probably can’t even fathom how much money was made, a lot of which came from financial aid,” said one patient, who added that caregivers had to buy a minimum of five patients and that some purchased more than a hundred.
Some CannaMed employees were allegedly given a $100 bonus for every 10 patients they sold, Warner reports.
Warren Edson, a prominent marijuana lawyer who was one of the key people behind Colorado’s Amendment 20, legalizing medical cannabis, said the system of selling patients is problematic.
“I know that patients need financial assistance and that these doctor visits cost a lot of money, but this feels wrong,” he said.
CannaMed’s financial aid program may be a victim of its own success, Warner reports
. Although Mazin said he has 15 to 20 marijuana businesses waiting for patients to sponsor, several former employees say the company now has more patients signing up for financial aid than it has dispensaries willing to pay for them.
“There were patients coming in who didn’t get their caregivers for months,” said a former CannaMed employee. “Now that there are so many other choices out there, CannaMed is scrambling to find caregivers.”
In the meantime, while patients wait weeks or months to be assigned a caregiver, the only places they can buy marijuana are CannaMed stories, Warner reports.
A CannaMed letter given to financial aid patients says that until they’re assigned a caregiver, they’ll receive a CannaMed statement that “is not a legal document and can not be used to prove patient status.”
However, the letter goes on to say “this document may gain you access into any CannaMed USA affiliated dispensary.” Bingo, a captive audience!
Although Warner reports Westword has a copy of the letter, Mazin denies any such letter exists.
For an extensive and excellent investigative report on this and many other difficulties faced by CannaMed patients — and the growing proliferation of “patients for sale” in Denver’s medical marijuana scene — be sure to read Joel Warner’s Westword article: