updated 3/5/2004 9:27:08 AM ET 2004-03-05T14:27:08

A doctor who authorized the use of medical marijuana for more than 4,000 patients was suspended from practicing medicine Thursday.

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Dr. Phillip Leveque, 81, has signed off on roughly 40 percent of all the cards issued in Oregon for patients using medical marijuana since Oregon became one of nine states legalizing its medicinal use.

The state law, approved by voters in 1998, allows residents to grow and use marijuana for medical purposes. A doctor must verify the patient has a debilitating medical condition such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or severe pain.

Leveque, an osteopath, called the board’s action an “inquisition,” and said he had signed thousands of cards because other doctors were reluctant to give patients the medicine they needed.

“My patients tell me, ‘Dr. Leveque, marijuana works better than any regularly prescribed medication,”’ he said.

Concerns about practices
But several physicians hired as consultants by the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners raised concerns about Leveque’s practices, according to board executive director Kathleen Haley.

The consultants found Leveque approved cards for patients with psychiatric disorders and prior histories of drug addition for whom marijuana was not appropriate, Haley said. Leveque also recommended marijuana for conditions that could not benefit from the drug, Haley said.

“It isn’t the numbers that are significant here. It’s the manner in which the patients were evaluated and the adequacy of that,” Haley said.

Leveque has been under scrutiny since 2002, when the board suspended his license for 90 days and fined him for signing cards without first seeing patients face-to-face.

Haley said the board will now consider permanent revocation.

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