British Columbia

Naturopath suspended for Skype marijuana consultations

A Langley naturopath has been suspended from practice for providing Skype medical consultations through two medical marijuana dispensaries.

B.C. regulator says Jonas Laforge among 6 naturopaths investigated in relation to pot dispensaries

The College of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C. has suspended Dr. Jonas Laforge's licence for a year. (Jonas Laforge)

A naturopath has been suspended from practice for providing medical consultations via Skype to help patients obtain medical marijuana from pot dispensaries.

The B.C. College of Naturopathic Physicians says Dr. Jonas Laforge of Langley is one of six naturopaths who have been investigated in connection with marijuana dispensaries.

Four of the cases didn't meet the bar for a public notification; one other is still under investigation.

According to a consent order posted on the college's website, Laforge was suspended last October after admitting that he "assisted patients in accessing marijuana through illegal marijuana dispensaries by providing patient consultations by Skype and 'confirmation of diagnosis' letters."

Naturopaths are not authorized to prescribe or recommend cannabis to patients. (Associated Press)

The college says the 40-year-old also "knowingly continued to facilitate patient access to marijuana" after the college issued a notice in 2014 warning naturopathic doctors not to prescribe or recommend cannabis to patients.

Laforge has been suspended from practice for a year. He has also been ordered to pay a fine of $25,000.

Naturopaths not allowed to prescribe pot

The news of dispensary-related investigations into naturopaths comes at a critical time for the dozens of medical marijuana storefronts that have spread throughout Vancouver in recent years.

The city has vowed to crack down on dispensaries that insist on staying open in violation of rules drawn up to issue licences for what would otherwise be considered illegal businesses.

So far only seven businesses have qualified; another 13 applications are under review. But dozens of existing businesses have vowed not to close their doors.

Marijuana advocates have criticized Vancouver city council for attempts to shut down unlicensed marijuana dispensaries. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The explosion of marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver led to a series of headlines about the sudden public availability of the drug and the fact that some businesses were offering on-site Skype consultations with naturopaths.

The college reacted in 2014 by reminding naturopaths that they are not authorized as "health-care practitioners" under the terms of the federal Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulation.

"As a consequence, a letter or referral form signed by a naturopathic physician to a local 'dispensary' for medicinal cannabis has no legal authority," wrote college registrar Howard Greenstein.

"If you are signing letters or referral forms recommending that patients receive medicinal cannabis from 'dispensaries' that are not authorized under the MMPR, you are required to immediately refrain from doing so."

Cash-only Botox services

According to the college's website, Laforge has been licensed as a naturopath since 2006.

The public notification also says he failed to disclose a criminal conviction in the United States at the time he applied for registration as a naturopath.

According to Washington state court records, Laforge was sentenced to 70 days in jail in 2002 for possession of more than 40 grams of marijuana.

The documents say customs agents found approximately 20 kilograms of marijuana after a search of his vehicle: "Jonas explained to the agents that the marijuana was destined for a hotel in Portland, Oregon."

In 2007, a U.S. judge granted Laforge's application to withdraw his guilty plea and vacate the conviction.

The process is available to offenders given certain conditions, so they can state they have not been convicted of a crime — although the court file is still accessible to the public.

The consent order says Laforge also administered Botox without certification from the college and provided cash-only Botox services around Vancouver and the Lower Mainland without issuing receipts.

Laforge did not respond to a request for comment.