Medical marijuana shop. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The owner/operator of six San Diego-based medical marijuana clinics admitted Wednesday that he forged a doctor’s signature and fraudulently used the physician’s name and license number to issue medical marijuana recommendations.

Nelson Leone, 72, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced Sept. 14.

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy emphasized that every patient — regardless of whether they’re seeking medical marijuana or other prescription drugs — has the right to have a licensed medical professional advising them on matters that affect their health.

“It is simply unacceptable to have someone forge a doctor’s signature for their own personal financial gain,” Duffy said.

According to prosecutors, Leone advertised his six medical marijuana clinics under the name Green Cross Evaluations, via The Reader and on the Internet.

The ads made it clear that the clinics were set up to be “consumer friendly” with on-site ATMs, accommodations for walk-in patients, and a $25 new patient “special.”

According to his website, Leone’s clinics were supposed to provide patients with access to a “licensed physician” that would evaluate them for a medical condition.

Prosecutors said, however, that five of Leone’s six clinics did not have a licensed medical doctor on staff.

Leone — who was stripped of his medical license in 1995 — employed a licensed doctor at just one of the six clinics to meet with customers and issue medical marijuana recommendations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In the absence of a licensed physician who could validly evaluate patients, Leone issued medical marijuana recommendations to customers at his other five clinics under his sole doctor’s name and license number. Those recommendations falsely certified that the customers were evaluated in the doctor’s office and suffered from a medical condition that “may benefit from the use of medical marijuana.”

As part of his plea, Leone agreed to shut down the six Green Cross Evaluations clinics.

—City News Service

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