GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A Grand Rapids doctor has admitted he certified medical-marijuana patients and caregivers without providing medical evaluations.
In some cases, Dr. Gregory Kuldanek met with groups of prospective patients and caregivers in restaurants and signed certifications around a common table. He even signed certifications without the patients present.
The allegations are contained in a plea agreement Kuldanek signed that calls for him to plead guilty to conspiracy to manufacture fewer than 50 marijuana plants. He is among 10 arrested for allegedly growing marijuana in homes and apartments in Kent County.
Related: Medical marijuana-related charges filed against Grand Rapids doctor, others in alleged drug ring
Many of the defendants contended they acted within guidelines of the state’s medical marijuana law.
Kuldanek, who agreed to surrender property at 13350 Seven Mile Road NE in Belding, faces up to five years in prison, $250,000 in fines, and two years to life on supervised release.
Kuldanek, of East Paris Internal Medicine, acknowledged in the court document that he did not properly certify medical marijuana patients.
Among the requirements to properly issue a card are that the physician has a bona fide relationship with the patient and that there is complete and full assessment of the patient’s history. The doctor also has to determine that the patient has a debilitating medical condition and is likely to receive therapeutic benefit from marijuana.
In 2012, Kuldanek believed that Betty Jenkins, who is also facing charges, was a compassionate woman who helped those with serious medical conditions. He conducted cursory evaluations of patients he met through Jenkins.
“In many cases, he did not have a bona fide physician/patient relationship, did not conduct a full assessment of their medical records and did not anticipate follow-up care, but he did believe that they suffered from a debilitating medical condition that was obvious to him,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Courtade wrote in court documents.
By 2013, he no longer conducted assessments before certifying patients, and in many cases, didn’t receive pay, Courtade said. He was aware that Jenkins was recruiting patients and caregivers so that her organization would manufacture 12 marijuana plants per patient and sell the marijuana, he said.
He knew that Jenkins could only legally have five registered patients, and “would have no reason for bringing him the dozens and dozens of ‘patient’ certifications she had asked him to sign over time,” Courtade said.
In October 2013, Jenkins and another defendant, Phillip Walsh, allegedly recruited Kuldanek’s life partner to become a caregiver, the plea agreement said.
Despite knowing that Jenkins was under investigation by state and federal law enforcement, and having declined to participate in growing marijuana, Kuldanek and his partner agreed to rent the Belding property to Jenkins to allow manufacture of marijuana, the plea agreement states.
He continued to sign patient certifications, knowing that Jenkins intended to use the certifications to justify the illegal growing and sale of marijuana, Courtade said.
“Dr. Kuldanek acknowledges that his willingness to certify (medical marijuana) ‘patients’ was integral to the scheme and artifice used by Jenkins, Walsh and the other conspirators to manufacture marijuana and distribute it in violation of Michigan and federal law,” Courtade wrote.
Under the plea agreement, the government will not bring charges against Kuldanek’s partner.
The government obtained names of 66 patients and caregivers linked to the alleged drug organization by issuing a grand-jury subpoena to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Kuldanek had provided medical certifications to most of them, investigators said.
Police used search warrants at a home on Forest Hill Avenue SE and two four-unit apartment buildings in Gaines Township. Police say marijuana was also grown in Kuldanek’s Belding property and on Alden Nash Road in Lowell Township, records showed.
Police said 467 plants and 18 pounds of processed marijuana were seized.
Jenkins attorney, J. Nicholas Bostic, contends that police sought federal charges because his client acted within state law. He has said his client was in “full compliance” with the state’s medical marijuana law.
John Agar covers crime for MLive/Grand Rapids Press E-mail John Agar: [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ReporterJAgar
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.