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Colorado doctor's license suspended amid medical marijuana allegation

By the CNN Wire Staff
Dr. Manuel De Jesus Aquino is accused of recommending medical marijuana for a pregnant woman.
Dr. Manuel De Jesus Aquino is accused of recommending medical marijuana for a pregnant woman.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The medical license of a Denver doctor is suspended
  • He is suspected of recommending medical marijuana to a pregnant woman
  • He will dispute allegations in a March hearing, his lawyer says
  • The complaint says the physician did not conduct a thorough investigation

(CNN) -- A Colorado physician suspected of recommending medical marijuana to a 28-weeks pregnant woman without conducting a thorough physical examination is fighting to keep his license.

A panel of the Colorado Medical Board last month ordered an emergency suspension of the license of Dr. Manuel De Jesus Aquino of Denver, pending a full investigation and finding, officials said.

Sheila H. Meer, the doctor's attorney, said she filed an answer Wednesday to the complaint made by the attorney general's office against her client.

"We will vigorously defend it," Meer said of Aquino's license, without commenting on the specific allegations made by the state. She said a hearing is scheduled for early March.

Reached by telephone Wednesday evening, Aquino declined to comment on specifics of the case.

A spokesman with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies said the civil case is about the standard of care, rather than the issue of medical marijuana.

"Being able to practice medicine is a very serious thing," said Chris Lines. "This doctor is way out of line in terms of caring for his patients."

A proper doctor-patient relationship involves more than a brief check-up, he added.

According to the complaint, the female patient was seen by Aquino in January at the Back to the Garden Health and Wellness Center in Denver.

The 20-year-old woman knew she was pregnant and sought a medical marijuana recommendation, the complaint said, adding that "pregnancy is a contraindication for the use of medical marijuana."

Aquino did not ask the patient if she was pregnant, she did not tell him, and Aquino failed to perform a thorough physical examination, according to the complaint. He did ask for and was given the reason -- unspecified in the complaint -- why the patient sought medical marijuana.

The patient was not asked to fill out a prior medical history form or come for follow-up visits, and spoke with Aquino for about three minutes, the complaint alleges. "Respondent did not provide Patient A with counseling regarding the risks of medical marijuana use during pregnancy," the state alleges.

Aquino signed a form indicating the woman might benefit from medical use of marijuana, the complaint states.

The woman gave birth on April 8 and had a positive urine drug screen for marijuana, according to the allegations. "Patient A's infant was drug exposed and had some initial feeding difficulties," the complaint says.

The complaint doesn't indicate whether the mother was accused of wrongdoing.

Back to the Garden Health and Wellness Center had no comment Wednesday.

Aquino could face various forms of discipline, according to the complaint. His alleged failure to do a full inquiry of the patient's medical history "fails to meet the generally accepted standard of medical practice," Assistant Attorney General Philip Davis contends.

CNN's Nick Valencia and Phil Gast contributed to this report.