Woman Taped At Medical Marijuana Clinic; Sues Doctor

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Photo: Andreas Fuhrmann/The Redding Record Searchlight
Dr. Cristal Speller, left, in the consultation with Tawnya McKee which resulted in a lawsuit

‚ÄčA Redding, California woman has sued a medical marijuana doctor, alleging the physician allowed a newspaper reporter to secretly interview and videotape her during a consultation in which she sought authorization to use cannabis.

The allegations are denied by both the newspaper, which wasn’t sued, and the doctor’s attorney, reports Ryan Sabalow at The Redding Record Searchlight.
Tawnya McKee alleges in a lawsuit filed late last month that on September 11, 2009, she went in Dr. Cristal Speller’s Natural Care for Wellness clinic in Redding.

While she was there, a Record Searchlight reporter videotaped McKee, then 32, in a consultation with Dr. Speller that resulted with the doctor giving McKee a recommendation for medical marijuana.
The lawsuit alleges that the conversation was surreptitiously recorded in what amounted to eavesdropping.
“(McKee) didn’t intend that her consultation with (Speller) be made public,” her attorney, David Edwards of Redding, alleges in the suit.
As a result of the taped interview, McKee was denied a job, Edwards said.
The attorney declined to say more, also declining to say why the newspaper wasn’t sued.
The suit seeks at least $25,000 in damages due to “professional negligence, violation of privacy, federal patient privacy and California wiretapping laws.”
According to David Benda, the Record Searchlight reporter who interviewed McKee and videotaped the doctor consultation, he made it very clear that he was a reporter working on a news story.
Benda said he asked McKee for permission to sit in on her 10-minute consultation with Dr. Speller, a Glendale-based physician who holds clinics in Redding, Chico, Santa Barbara, Palmdale and Northridge.
Benda used the video from the consultation in a story posted on Redding.com about the explosive growth of medical marijuana businesses in Redding. In the video, McKee tells Dr. Spelling about her medical history.
In an interview not included in the taping, McKee told Benda that she has used marijuana medicinally for about 13 years, and that she had visited Dr. Speller to “become legal.”
McKee told Benda that she can’t tolerate pain medications like Vicodin, so cannabis helps her cope with the pain of endometriosis.
“I don’t have to hide it anymore,” McKee said after she received the doctor’s recommendation.
Dr. Speller’s Los Angeles attorney, Tracy Green, said it was clear during the consultation that Benda was a reporter and that McKee had given him verbal permission to sit in.
Green said McKee is just looking for a cash payout.
According to Green, Dr. Spelling heard McKee agree to be interviewed. “This wasn’t someone accidentally overhearing a conversation; this was explicit consent,” said Green.


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