By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon
The first Colorado doctor to face the loss of his medical license for improperly authorizing medical marijuana is accused of giving a medical marijuana recommendation to a 20-year-old pregnant woman without ever having examined her or asking why she needed marijuana, according to documents obtained by Solutions.
Dr. Manuel De Jesus Aquino of Denver is accused of authorizing medical marijuana for the unnamed woman in January. According to the complaint filed this month by the Colorado Attorney General’s office on behalf of the Colorado Medical Board, Aquino never took a medical history from the woman, assessed her vital signs, asked her if she was pregnant, or followed up on her care.
The woman was 28 weeks pregnant when Aquino saw her on Jan. 20. She gave birth to her baby on April 8 and tested positive for a marijuana screen. The baby was drug exposed and had some initial feeding difficulties. The complaint says Aquino never viewed her prior medical records and did not discuss the risks of medical marijuana use.
- Read the full complaint against Dr. Aquino.
- See the Medical Board suspension of Dr. Aquino’s medical license.
- See the Aurora Police Department press release about their July arrest of Aquino, identified by Aurora as Maneul Aquino-Villaman.
- See the Denver Post report on the story Solutions broke.
- Read about possible link between medical marijuana and increased drug offenses in Colorado schools at www.EdNewsParent.org
“Pregnancy is a contraindication for the use of medical marijuana,’’ the complaint states. “(Aquino) did not ask Patient A if she was pregnant….As part of his assessment of Patient A for medical marijuana, (Aquino) did not perform a physical examination.”
The complaint goes on to say that the doctor never had a “bona fide physician-patient relationship” with the woman.
Solutions was unable to reach Aquino for comment.
He is the same doctor who was arrested in July during a sting operation by the Aurora Police Department.
His lawyer before the Medical Board, Sheila H. Meer, declined to discuss the details of the case.
“He’s got 30 days. At that point, we will respond. It would be premature to talk about it until then,’’ Meer said.
The case is the first substandard care case that the Colorado Board has filed related to medical marijuana.
Aquino, was arrested during an Aurora Police Department sting operation in July. In that case, Aurora police named him as Manuel D. Aquino-Villaman, according to Aurora police Sgt. Cassidee Carlson.
During the 5-month sting operation, two Aurora police officers went to Aquino’s office on 3033 S. South Parker Road in Aurora. He spent a couple of minutes with each officer and gave them marijuana recommendations for “pain” without ever physically examining them or obtaining any evidence that they were ill. Both officers used hidden microphones and each paid $125 for their consultation.
The Arapahoe County District Attorney’s office has charged Aquino with attempting to influence a public servant (the state’s medical marijuana registray) and with forgery, a felony.
Officials in the Arapahoe County Clerk’s office say the case is pending with the next hearing set for February 7. Aquino waived his right to a preliminary hearing. He is free on $6,000 bond.
Aquino’s lawyer in the criminal case, Robert Corry, told the Aurora Sentinel that Aquino is taking the charges seriously and has never been in trouble with the law.
“This is really a full-frontal attack on every single doctor in Colorado who advises patients to use medical marijuana,” Corry told the Sentinel. “Every single doctor in the state of Colorado should be taking notice of this, which is probably their intent, to scare doctors away from this medical specialty and intimidate them and thus decrease patient access to medical marijuana.”
“The officers went in and said they were suffering from medical conditions, asked for a medical marijuana recommendation and Dr. Aquino, who denies people who ask for these on a regular basis, believed what these officers were telling him, which was his only mistake,” Corry said.
The woman in the January Denver case sought a medical marijuana card at Back to the Garden Health and Wellness Center in Denver.
The owner of the center, Kurt Caven said Aquino was one of many doctors who would come to his facility and give out medical marijuana recommendations.
“He never did work for me or my facility,’’ Caven said. “He was just one of quite a few that people could go to to get a recommendation. Now people have to go find a doctor that’s doing medical marijuana recommendations and you go to their office to go through the whole process. There are quite a few of them.
“I don’t know what he was doing or not doing,’’ Caven said. He declined to say whether he suggests that pregnant women use marijuana. “I’m not sure what he did wrong. I don’t have a feeling about it one way or the other.”
The company’s website says that “our patient’s needs are of the utmost importance. Our team is committed to meeting those needs. As a result, a high percentage of our business is from repeat patients and referrals. We would welcome the opportunity to earn your trust and deliver you the best service and medication in the industry.”
The Colorado Medical Board first reviewed Dr. Aquino’s case on Nov. 17 when the board voted to summarily suspend his license. The board then met in an emergency session on December 9 and upheld the suspension. The Attorney General’s Office filed a notice of complaint that the board is seeking to revoke Aquino’s license on Dec. 17.
“They want to get this resolved as soon as possible because of consumer protection,’’ said Chris Lines, public information officer for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. “(Aquino) will not be practicing until this is resolved. And (if the case against him is proven) he will not be practicing at all.”
The Medical Board does not specifically oversee medical marijuana facilities or doctors who work in them. Rather, the board steps in when a doctor is accused of providing substandard care.
The complaint against Aquino alleges that he “engaged in unprofessional conduct” and that the board will determine whether his license will be revoked.
Aquino first was licensed to practice medicine in Colorado on Feb. 14, 2007.
Doctors in Colorado may not write prescriptions per se for medical marijuana.
“In the eyes of the law, medical marijuana is still an illegal drug. When they write them a card, it says nothing about prescriptions,’’ Lines said.