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Bay Area Medical Marijuana Clinics Allegedly Run By Organized Criminal Enterprise Still Running

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A judge has refused to impose a gag order in a case involving doctors allegedly churning out medical marijuana recommendations for patients in the Bay Area.

A doctor's recommendation is needed to get marijuana for medical use. That's been focus of a KPIX 5 investigation. Lawyers for defendants in an alleged clinic scheme lost their bid Monday to impose a gag order on the case. They asked for it after we broke the story last month.

Seven suspects, including two doctors, have been charged so far. Despite the serious criminal allegations, we found the operation hasn't slowed down.

In just one hour, we saw dozens of people going in and out the door of the 420 MD medical marijuana clinic on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland.

It's just $65 to get a recommendation and the visits are quick. We timed it. One patient spent less than two and a half minutes with the clinic's doctor. And that seemed to be the norm. Another one came and went in less than three minutes.

Should it be that easy ?

"That's not a doctor's visit," said Dr. Deborah Malka. She owns her own holistic practice in Santa Cruz and is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians

"There are standards that the Medical Board has put forth in order to be practicing good medicine like a history and a physical," Malka said.

Malka spends at least 15 minutes and often up to an hour with patients like Jack, who suffers from Parkinson's disease. "This whole kind of cheap gawdiness of cannabis, come on in and pay your cheap bucks to get your cheap piece of paper is not medicine," she said.

The Medical Board is clamping down. The Oakland clinic is part of a chain under investigation for profiteering and money laundering.

The man the Medical Board says is behind it all: Michael Malenkov, 28 years old, he looks fresh out of college. But the prosecutors say he's operating a multi-million dollar empire, backed by an "investor" in the Ukraine.

Under California law, one must be a physician to own a clinic. Malenkov isn't. Prosecutors said he hires doctors on Craigslist. Two have already been arrested.

KPIX 5 asked Dr. Albert Adams in Oakland if he was aware that other doctors have been arrested for doing the same thing. "I really cannot comment unless I am in the presence of counsel," he said.

"It brings down the whole profession of medicine to have anyone who has an md after their name to participate in these practices," said Dr. Malka. "Those guys are tarnishing the reputation of true cannabis patients and providers."

When we last checked the other three 420MD clinics were also still open for business. The next hearing in the case in next month.

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