Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · The Doc & The Cops
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The Doc & The Cops

Patrick Sullivan - April 1st, 2013  

Physician faces felony charges for certifying medical marijuana patients

The 76-year-old looks like an old-fashioned country doctor. He is gray-haired, unassuming and kind, about as far as you could imagine from the image that comes to mind of someone who is the target of an undercover drug probe.

But police and prosecutors would have you look at this man differently. They’ve brought felony charges and say he rubber-stamped medical marijuana certifications for profit.

The case unfolding against Dr. Edward Lamar Harwell, M.D., could eventually have a jury deciding whether he spent enough time examining three undercover cops posing as patients before he signed off on permission for them to use medical marijuana.

Harwell, of Reed City, is charged with criminal conspiracy for allegedly certifying medical marijuana patients without a “bona fide doctor-patient relationship” and with putting false information in medical records. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.

Of note, Harwell spent most of his career as a radiologist with special training in nuclear medicine. Typically specialists in these fields don’t conduct the kind of primary care exams that are offered by family practitioners or internists.

Harwell’s preliminary exam began March 21 in Cadillac and is set to resume April 4, when District Judge David Hogg is expected to decide whether police and prosecutors can bring their case against Harwell to trial.

It is just the latest trouble for the doctor, who, depending on where you look, is either depicted as a scofflaw opportunist who ran a medical marijuana certification mill, or he is a compassionate and principled doctor who decided several years ago that marijuana is an effective treatment for pain.


Two witnesses testified on the first day of Harwell’s hearing and at least two more are expected to testify when the hearing resumes this Thursday.

A detective from the Traverse Narcotics Team testified that police learned about Harwell’s Cadillac practice, the Triple M Clinic, in 2010, and they eventually decided to send undercover officers to pose as pain-sufferers seeking medical marijuana cards.

One of those officers, a Leelanau County Sheriff’s deputy who went by the alias “Cody Michael Boyd,” appeared in court in a black suit and red shirt with shoulder-length hair, a soul patch, and a long petit goatee.

He testified about how he wore a wire that could record audio, and carried a key chain to record video. The officer said he saw the receptionist and announced he was a new patient.


Here is what happened when “Cody Boyd” visited the doctor: Like any doctor visit, the receptionist gave him a stack of forms to fill out. He was called to the exam room before he finished them.

The officer said the exam took around five minutes.

It was captured on the secret audio-video recording, which was played in court, but the recording cut off before the end of the exam, apparently due to technical problems.

“I handed (the paperwork) to the doctor. I apologized. I stated that I did not get it done,” he said.

Harwell took the forms and he continued to fill them out, apparently based on questions the undercover officer had already answered on the form and from what he told the doctor during the exam.

“He asked me what kind of symptoms I had and I said I had mostly neck pain, which shot into my shoulder,” the officer testified.

“He did ask me to turn my head to the left and to the right and he asked me if I had any discomfort.”


The officer didn’t bring his medical history with him to the clinic, but he summarized his history on the form.

He described knee problems he’d suffered long ago and said he had to have several knee surgeries.

The doctor examined the officer’s knees.

He pressed his fingers around them, to see if that caused any discomfort or pain. He checked the officer’s reflexes with a plexor.

Harwell also checked his blood pressure, which was found to be slightly high.

“You’re blood pressure’s a little up there,” the doctor said.

What the officer told the doctor during the visit was a cocktail of truth and lies: he testified that he wrote on the form that he suffered from anxiety, which he said was not true. He said he had suffered knee problems, which was the truth. He said he had severe neck pain, which was a lie.

He could not fake his blood pressure, though.


Harwell handed the officer a card. He’d written down his blood pressure reading. The card also included the doctor’s telephone number.

He told the officer to check his blood pressure at a pharmacy in a few days and if it was still high, to call him.

Harwell’s attorney, Michael Cronkright, said this is just one detail that shows the true nature of Dr. Harwell’s work -- he is a man who cares deeply about his patients.

Beyond that, Cronkright said, there is no question that the exams performed by his client constituted “bona fide doctor patient” relationships.

“It’s somewhat outrageous for us to be going after a medical doctor who has decades of experience,” Cronkright said. When does a doctor-patient relationship become bona fide?

“It’s an extremely interesting and controversial question,” he said. “But I will tell you that I don’t think it’s a whole lot different than from when a lawyer-client relationship becomes bona fide.” And that, he said, can happen once a lawyer gives a person some advice.


The police and prosecutor in this case didn’t return messages seeking comment.

They might point to a Michigan Attorney General’s complaint issued last year which alleges that Harwell failed to keep proper records and that he didn’t properly evaluate patients who he charged fees -- $150 for firsttime patients and $100 for renewals -- for medical marijuana certifications.

The complaint described medical marijuana seminars Harwell hosted at hotels around Michigan.

The complaint describes a television news report from December, 2010, when a reporter from Channel 31 in Kalamazoo sent an undercover patient into one of Harwell’s hotel-based clinics. The stunt led to a report entitled “Smokescreen,” which described how the undercover patient received certification after a short conversation and the exchange of some cash.

Also, the complaint alleges that during the course of his medical marijuana practice, Harwell saw two patients, who are not named, who suffered from high blood pressure when they saw Harwell. The complaint alleges that the condition was not addressed by the doctor.

Cronkright said there is no testimony or evidence about those patients. He said the testimony from the undercover TNT officer demonstrates the kind of care Harwell takes with his patients.


Harwell said he could not talk about his case when he was approached during a break in his recent hearing in Cadillac. He apologized and said he had been told by Cronkright not to talk to the media.

But he was profiled in 2010 by the website annarbor.com. There he explained how he became committed to medical marijuana.

He told the reporter that he used to be opposed to marijuana but then he attended a conference that changed his mind and convinced him marijuana was an effective treatment for pain.

“It’s the only drug you can’t overdose on, it’s not toxic and it’s not addicting,” he told annarbor.com.

He described to the reporter his process for approving a certification: he would meet with a patient, discuss their symptoms, talk about their medical history, and decide whether they suffered from one of the medical conditions that enables people in Michigan access to marijuana since 2008.

He said he didn’t believe it required a full examination to certify someone for medical marijuana.

Harwell also told his annarbor.com profiler he was committed to certifying patients for medical marijuana, despite the risks brought on by uncertainties in the law, because he believed it was right.

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