Dr. Sona Patel has built a veritable empire off of marijuana prescriptions. With sexy billboards, three locations and low price guarantees like those at big box stores, Patel's "Doc 420" brand dominates search results and word of mouth around Los Angeles - even if she is rarely present at her cushy kush clinics.
Prescription mills such as Patel's and the green-friendly doctors lining the Venice Beach boardwalk essentially offer dispensary access to anyone with some cash, a California ID and a half-baked medical excuse.
So with the California state Senate considering a bill that would limit the ability to prescribe pot to primary care doctors and specialists recommended by primary care doctors, you'd assume Doc 420 would be up in arms. Oddly, you'd be wrong.
Patel tells us that she supports Senate Bill 1262, even though it would "effectuate an end to my business." Although prescription mills have proven extremely lucrative for doctors like she who got in early, Patel says she'd be fine with being simply a primary care physician who also happens to prescribe pot.
"I have always envisioned a return to family practice, freeing myself of my current medical-marijuana focus and being able to serve as the entry point for substantially all of the patient's medical and health care needs," she says.
The Los Angeles Times reported in 2009 that she got her medical degree in the Caribbean, modeling on the side to cover tuition costs. On her website, she says she rejected a career as a Bollywood star at age 17 in favor of attending UC-Irvine.
"God gave me the gifts of beauty and talent but I knew in my heart that my most precious gift was my brain," she writes, adding that when she would drive down Sunset Blvd in her cherry-red convertible Mercedes, "crowds of homeless people would wave to me with love in their eyes."
In addition to winning the favor of the downtrodden, her sex appeal has helped her market cannabis prescriptions, and landed her in a swimsuit on a recent cover of Hollywood Weekly.
For the moment, things are still good for her business. Her dimly lit Hollywood clinic on Melrose features a giant chandelier, red walls and golden chairs facing a flat screen TV playing movies like Dodgeball and Wedding Crashers.
If SB 1262 passes, instead of handing out prescriptions, Patel would need to gain an additional certification from the California Medical Board and report to them how many patients she recommends weed. Plus, if she prescribes cannabis more than a hundred times a year, she would automatically get audited by the medical board. Considering that getting audited is only slightly more comfortable than a colonoscopy, why is she ok with all of this?
"Limiting the number of physicians that are allowed to prescribe marijuana is a reasonable means for the medical board," she says.
Sure, we respect authority too, sometimes, but perhaps she's just made so much of that other kind of green as L.A.'s top pot doc over the years that she's good. After all, how many cherry-red convertible Mercedes can a person have? (Here are some great shots of her home in the hills, featuring an indoor pool with a sick view.)
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But even the LA.. Times editorial board thinks these restrictions are too harsh.
Perhaps the real losers here will be the stoners, the kinds who don't want their names on a state medical board list, and prefer their primary care doctor to not have a sexy photo album on her website called, "When my doctor's coat comes off."