By Michael J. Liss, Esq.
Wetting the toes or diving in? Questions bring forth considerations which bring forth answers. Whether you are already a “qualified” physician, or are considering the opportunity to become one, this article will raise a few questions you should ask yourself, and offer a few answers, as well. Our foci are whether to maintain separate physical offices and whether to maintain separate companies for physicians in the cannabis space.
Who? Who are you and who are the cannabis patients who will consult with you? The age. The demographics. You and your patients. These are basic, primary considerations which any person opening a business should consider. They will certainly help to answer the questions of whether to maintain separate physical offices and whether to maintain separate companies for your cannabis practice. Moreover, who are you in practice? An LLC? In a group practice or solo? An internist or a surgeon?
What? What are you doing? What are your patients doing? It is important to consider that everyone has an opinion about cannabis and everyone in the cannabis field, because cannabis has been illegal in this country for a century. The “what”-recommending that people purchase and consume cannabis-is controversial and will impose judgments upon you as a physician, as a neighbor, as a banking customer, and the list grows. Just be clear that you fully understand that you are meeting people to discuss consumption of a product which many consider a miracle, and some consider to be not only illegal, but wrong.
Where? This is a big one. Should you run a cannabis practice in the same physical space as your primary practice? Do you open locations near dispensaries? Ground level or discreet office? The answer to this question likely depends on the answers to the other questions, but is just as important.
When? Are you already running an MMJ practice or considering? Where is your lease, at its inception or near its end? Are you early in a medical career or toward the end? Timing is everything! Well, it’s at least an important consideration.
Why are you doing this? Be honest. Are you trying to educate patients? Are you trying to make extra money? Do you love cannabis, personally? Why are the patients coming to you, of all physicians? No judgment, in this industry (as in most) a variety of motivations will lead professionals to their destinations. However, the “why” of what you are doing is critical to consider when answering the other questions. If you only care about providing pain relief to terminal patients, the when, where and how of your mmj practice will be very different than if you want to charge maximum amounts to the largest number of patients.
How? Do you utilize the same company and company structure as your primary practice, or do you organize a stand-alone entity to run your mmj practice?
Some basic pointers after consulting and networking with physicians in the biz and those asking about the biz:
Separate entities are important and recommended in most instances. There are many reasons for this, but I typically advise owners of more than one business to maintain separate entities, despite the additional costs (separate tax returns, etc.). Liabilities remain separate as do assets. I am concerned that, until cannabis is rescheduled, occasional examples will continue to be made, to force the entire industry to remember that the DEA and FDA remain in charge. Especially in the western states, the federal government does still occasionally arrest industry participants on each level. If you’re a physician I’d rather have the feds attempt to seize the chair and couch in your mmj practice (and, potentially, your operating account) while you work your way through the legal system than I would have the feds seize your whole medical practice, with its equipment, records, etc. I’d rather have the proceeds sitting in your mmj account frozen than the money in your general practice account. These are not likelihoods, but risks sufficient to deserve consideration and planning. Separate entities reduces risk.
If the numbers make sense, I recommend separate locations. If the numbers don’t justify separate offices and the increased overhead, then I suggest maintaining separate hours of practice. There is stigma abound for both patient and practitioner. An older patient with cancer may not feel comfortable in the waiting room of their oncologist with a long-bearded millennial sitting next to them, awaiting a cannabis consult. Psychiatrists who maintain mmj practices have very different primary patients than oncologists and internists.
The questions and answers on these topics are without end. There are few absolute rights and wrongs. Just ask yourself the who, what, where, when, why and how of what you’re looking to do, consider the questions, and the answers will readily follow.
Michael Liss, Esq. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (561) 981-2507, located in Boca Raton.