Ohio doctor fined $4,500 in Mont. cannabis caravan

AMY BETH HANSON Associated Press Published:

HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- An Ohio doctor was fined $4,500 for providing substandard care in approving medical marijuana cards while working for the Montana Caregivers Network two years ago, the Montana Board of Medical Examiners announced Thursday.

The board said Dr. Wayne K. Kawalek of Bedford, Ohio, could not produce the medical records of 18 people for whom he approved medical marijuana cards. The board levied the fine on Jan. 27.

Kawalek did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. A phone message also was left with his attorney, Greg Van Horssen of Helena.

Board records indicate Kawalek obtained a Montana medical license on March 25, 2010, and saw MCN patients from April 1 through April 7 that year, including 195 in one day while working for MCN.

The Montana Caregivers Network held one-day clinics in hotels and conference centers in Montana for over a year. For a $150 fee, the group brought together people seeking to become medical marijuana patients with doctors willing to prescribe pot.

The caravans were shut down in July 2010, about the same time the Montana Board of Medical Examiners decided to investigate the propriety of Kawalek's practices regarding medical marijuana patients.

Kawalek told the board he met with each patient, reviewed medical records of those patients who presented them and entered notes in a computer database.

The board's screening panel sought to review the records of a random sample of 20 of the 195 patients Kawalek saw during a one-day clinic. Eighteen received medical marijuana cards.

Kawalek said the Montana Caregivers Network denied him access to his patients' records that the clinic may have gathered and stored electronically.

One reviewer said it is possible that Kawalek did perform counseling and make other recommendations or referrals for the patients whose charts were reviewed, but "unfortunately, there is no documentation to prove that this occurred."

"As this is all that we have to review, then I have no choice but to say this does not meet any positive definition I know of for respectable standard of patient care," the reviewer wrote.

The board fined Kawalek $250 for each of the 18 medical marijuana patients for whom the records were unavailable, but said $2,000 of that fine would only have to be paid if he renewed his Montana medical license.

A hearings examiner found that Kawalek had not practiced medicine in Montana at any time other than through his association with the Montana Caregivers Network. He voluntarily ceased seeing medical marijuana patients after the complaint was filed.