Pot doctor not dropping lawsuit against state over advertising

A Tacoma osteopath once known as the city’s top pot doc can advertise medical marijuana services, but he’s not dropping a lawsuit filed against the state.

Dr. Scott Havsy sued in May, arguing a state law prohibiting doctors from advertising marijuana services was unconstitutional and violates the First and Fourteenth amendments.

He wanted a judge to void the law and wipe out a 2013 ruling by a health law judge that he had committed professional misconduct by advertising his pot services.

On Friday, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Brian Tollefson denied Havsy’s request in a minute-long hearing.

“I am not persuaded by Mr. Havsy’s position,” the judge said.

Attorney Mark G. Olson called the ruling “perplexing” but said he was ready to argue the case at a future hearing. No date was set Friday.

Havsy did not attend Friday’s hearing, but his attorney said he has not been advertising medical marijuana services despite the state granting him permission to do so two weeks ago.

Havsy. who specializes in pain medication, has practiced in Washington state for 30 years and is known as a pioneer in the medical marijuana field.

For last three years or so he’s been in a dispute with health regulators over language and images on his website and print advertisements that delineate his willingness to authorize the use of medical marijuana.

The state Department of Health filed a complaint against him in 2012, contending he acted unprofessionally by advertising medical marijuana services on his website.

Settlement negotiations fell apart after Havsy declined to settle the complaint by paying a $1,000 fine, attending 10 hours of continuing education in law and ethics, and removing the advertising from his website.

At a June discipline hearing, a health law judge ruled that Havsy had violated the law against physicians advertising marijuana services and ordered him to stop immediately. He also fined Havsy $5,000 and put his medical license on probation for one year.

Olson said Friday that the state canceled its order two weeks ago, meaning Havsy no longer must pay the fine and can advertise marijuana services.

That success, however, doesn’t appear to be enough.

“From our point of view, we can’t let it rest there,” Olson said. “As long as the statute remains on the book, it’s a threat to the free commercial speech of health care providers throughout the state who assess the appropriateness of medical marijuana for their patients.”