St. Louis-based psychiatrist Zinia Thomas thinks allegations that her rolling medical marijuana clinic is actually selling the drug are the result of “confusion on social media.”
Since it started offering physicians’ certificates for medical marijuana patients in June, Thomas’ clinic, the Cannabus, has been accused of selling marijuana.
Capt. John Hotz of the Missouri State Highway Patrol told the Missourian in a Friday email that the agency is “looking into the Cannabus.”
The allegations haven’t stopped the black Mercedes-Benz bus from traveling across Missouri to issue certificates.
On Friday, it issued nearly 70 licenses to patients at the Grass Roots Smoke Shop locations in Columbia.
Grass Roots owner John Borland declined to talk to the Missourian about the bus.
While Missouri voters chose last November to legalize medical marijuana, only those with the appropriate business license can sell it, and the state will not issue those licenses until December at the earliest.
Bev Semar, who received her certification Friday at the Cannabus, said the staff on the bus was offering marijuana samples in exchange for donations. Two other patients, however, said they were not offered any marijuana.
“In general it is not legal to dispense marijuana at this time,” Hotz wrote in his email.
Dan Viets, a lawyer who specializes in marijuana law and who drafted the measure approved by voters, agreed that offering samples in exchange for donations is illegal.
“That’s a shame if that’s what they’re doing, and I’m afraid they’re damaging the credibility of the entire program when they do things like that,” Viets said. “That’s exactly what they’ve been accused of. They know they’re being investigated. I can’t believe they continue to do that.”
Thomas said the bus “can provide limited medicine” to people if there are extenuating circumstances, such as seizures, cancers or other situations where withholding medication would produce more harm.
Thomas said the process for issuing certificates depends on whether a patient has already been diagnosed with one or more qualifying conditions.
Conditions that could qualify for certification include glaucoma, migraines or chronic illnesses.
Patients who have been diagnosed bring their medical records with them to the Cannabus, and Thomas issues them a certificate.
Because Thomas is a psychiatrist, she is able to diagnose patients with a “debilitating psychiatric disorder,” which is listed on the certificate form.
“I give them a rating-scale test for anxiety, mood, focus, whatever the issue may be, and then they could qualify for the card, and cannabis can be their medicine,” she said.
Semar said she was asked a series of questions such as, “Do you have a nervous condition?” or “Do you have anxiety?”
“I think there’s a lot of people who are going to be getting the card that don’t really need the card or deserve a card,” she said.
Steve Evans, who also received his certification, said the process was “pretty easygoing.”
“You just fill out the medical questionnaire, then they review it, and you pay, and they give you your paperwork,” he said. “You file it with the state; it’s pretty simple.”
The Cannabus charges $125 for certification.
Thomas said many of her patients are people who are uncomfortable with the idea of asking their doctor for a medical marijuana prescription or have doctors that won’t offer it to them.
“I do feel like it’s something I have to do,” she said, “just because there’s not a lot of people doing it.”