Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical
A Reluctant Martyr: Marian
O'Shaugnessy's News Service
Marian “Mollie” Fry, comes from a long line of doctors. She went to
med school at UC Irvine (class of ’85), trained in psychiatry, then
switched to family practice. Her office is in Cool, a small town in
El Dorado County. She herself has had to deal with breast cancer and
other major health problems in recent years, and has used cannabis
as an easement for chemo-induced nausea, depression, PTSD, and insomnia.
She discovered its anti-depressant effects at age 13, soon after her
mom —a research physician who’d stayed home to raise her kids— died
at age 42.
Her husband Dale Schafer, grew up in Sacramento. He observed the medical utility
of marijuana first-hand when, as a teenager assigned to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital
in Oakland, he assisted the surgeons who tried to perfect the stumps of sailors
whose limbs had been amputated en route from Vietnam. After the navy he worked
in Kaiser ERs to put himself through college and law school. Fry and Schafer
have three kids of their own —17, 14, and 12— and helped raise several others,
including two from Schafer’s first marriage, now in their late 20s.
Mollie Fry graduated from Western Washington University in 1980 and from UC
Irvine School of Medicine in 1985. After an internship at UC Davis she became
a family practitioner in Lodi, where she supervised two physicians’ assistants.
The Medical Board of California did not look askance on this approach, which
maximizes the number of patients whose care a doctor can oversee.
In ’88 Dale accepted a lucrative job with a San Diego medical-malpractice-defense
firm. Mollie decided that her own kids needed her; she stopped practicing
in ‘89 and became a home-schooler.
Dale developed misgivings about his firm’s ethics and in ‘93 the family moved
to El Dorado County where he entered the workers’ comp field.
In ’96 they bought a big, old house in Greenwood on 26 acres. After Prop 215
passed, Mollie realized she could be of service —having used cannabis herself
for various purposes and understanding its range of effects— to the many Californians
who would now be seeking professional guidance in using cannabis. She resumed
seeing patients (employing a physician’s assistant to handle the initial interview)
and Dale established an adjoining practice to advise them of their rights under
California’s Health & Safety Code section 11362.5.
“Prozac and Paxil put me in such a fog that I could hardly express
In this period Mollie became convinced that she herself had breast cancer,
even though several specialists found nothing. “I told them that something
was wrong —I actually knew I had breast cancer— and they said ‘You’re depressed’ and
offered me Prozac and Paxil, which put me in such a fog that I could hardly
express myself properly.” She stopped using the pharmaceuticals when she developed
severe hypertension (a fairly common side-effect).
Mollie says if she’d stayed on conventional anti-depressants she
would not have had the clarity or forcefulness to insist on an exploratory
procedure which revealed a malignancy that had spread to three lymph
nodes. Her breasts were removed Dec. 17, 1997.
Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer got their first visit from law enforcement —two
uniformed El Dorado County Sheriff’s deputies— in the summer of ’99.
At the time there were six plants in the garden. Mollie said she was
willing to help the officers “identify those people who are truly ill
from those people who belong in jail for dealing drugs.’ They said, ‘Dr.
Fry, write notes.’ I shook their hands, they left my house.”
“When I used to prescribe drugs to people out of the PDR I would
always go over the side-effects and possible long-term complications
because they could be so dangerous.”
Mollie feels her early paperwork may have been lax because she was
so convinced of the benignity of cannabis. “I used common sense. When
I used to prescribe drugs to people out of the PDR I would always go
over the side-effects and possible long-term complications because
they could be so dangerous. Cannabis is so much safer than Tylenol,
which is sold over-the-counter… And most of my patients were using
it to get off much more dangerous drugs, like Prozac and alcohol, or
to cut down on opiates. I had spoken to Tod [Mikuriya], and really
saw eye-to-eye with him.
“After I got called into court [to confirm and defend her recommendation
of cannabis for a given patient] about four or five times, I figured
out how to tighten my records. Now I have a procedure that is so locked-down…patients
come in with their records, if possible; they fill out a complete questionnaire;
they sign a release for me to use the information in research; and
they confirm under penalty of perjury that they’re not lying. They
watch a film in which Dale reads the elements of the statute and I
speak about the right to determine the best course of treatment, which
means the right to consider all the options… Then they see Dale for
at least 20 minutes, then they come to me.
“I often find that pain patients are suffering from severe over- or
under-medication. I tell them ‘You need to go back to your doctor,
you need to talk to them about this, suggest that they reduce this
or that. I see a lot of doube anti-depressants, people taking Wellbutrin
and Paxil. A lot of people taking 10 to 12 Vicodin a day, which is
too much Tylenol [acetomenaphine being a co-ingredient]… I focus on
their health and their habits. And of course I touch the part that
hurts and try to figure out why it does. And I document it in the charts.”
Fry only orders procedures such as blood tests and x-rays when a patient
refuses to see a primary-care doctor. “There are some crusty old men
who are making a conscious choice to die rather than be subjected to
certain things. I don’t think they should go to jail. With them I ask ‘What
hurts most?’ They’ll say, ‘Well, doc, it’s gotta be this right hip.’ I’ll
ask, ‘Will you let me order an x-ray for just that hip? Because we
know it’s gonna show arthritis.’ And they usually go ‘Sure.’ For people
who refuse, I can document that I wanted them to get a doctor; and
they qualify [for a cannabis approval] based on the x-ray, which will
be read by a second physician.
“A lot of people say to me, ‘Dr. Fry, since I’ve been using marijuana,
I don’t need those pills. I don’t want to go back to that stupid doctor.’ I
say, ‘I’m sorry, that may be good medicine, but it’s not good legal
practice. You need to go back to the doctor at least every couple of
years and report that you’re still having…’ whatever problems they’re
By the start of ’00 Mollie and Dale were beginning to feel confident
that their medical/legal practices were appropriate under Prop 215.
(The sheriff’s deputies had returned before the ‘99 harvest and told
Dale he was a good grower.) They leased space in Oakland and Lake Tahoe
to conduct one-day-a-week clinics at which they would typically see
On one occasion Mollie approached Attorney General Bill Lockyer at a VFW fundraiser
and told him what she was doing. “The people who could most benefit from the
implementation of Prop 215 are veterans,” she noted, “Vets with purple hearts.” According
to Mollie, ‘Bill Lockyer said ‘Okay, go for it, but be low-key.’ He said something
to imply, not that I should hide but that I should be discreet. Maybe that
was the word he used… But the problem was, by now I had staff and office rents,
and how do you let patients know that you’re available without advertising?”
Fry was charging $100 an initial visit and $40 for a re-ceritifaction.
Patients on social security or welfare received discounts. “A lot of
money flowed through the business,” says Mollie, “but it all went out
to staff.” Dale and physician’s assistant Rob Poseley employed a receptionist
and a file clerk. Mollie had a personal secretary working with her
on some book projects —one on medical marijuana, one on surviving cancer,
and one for children. She also employed “a full-time medical-records
officer dealing with paperwork. The clubs tend to be very demanding,
which creates a whole ‘nother layer of paperwork that no other doctor
has to pay for… Then I had a data-entry person putting all our patients’s
records into the computer for research purposes. The government [DEA]
got all our computers [in a subsequent raid].”
In the spring of ’00 the El Dorado county sheriff’s investigators
returned to the Fry-Schafer residence asking questions on behalf of
the DEA about a former employee named Paul Magge. “They left and it
seemed like no big deal,” Mollie recalls. “We harvested, I had enough
medicine, Dale was making concentrates for me, I was feeling better,
we had a staff we could trust… We decided to contact Bill Lockyer again
and confirm that we were on the right track.” Dale arranged a meeting
with Dave De Alba, the senior assistant AG whom Lockyer had put in
charge of Prop-215 matters. “Dave told us to stay the hell away from
Tod. That Tod is targeted, and that Tod is a problem. We ignored that,
of course, because we like and respect Tod…” De Alba also arranged
a meeting at which representatives of the Medical Board provided Schafer
with practice guidelines. Fry reviewed them and felt she already was
abiding by them.
In July of 2001 Dale Schafer announced that he was running for District
Attorney of El Dorado County, putting up signs and going to the local
fairs. That September he and Mollie were raided by the DEA —a raid
they think DA Gary Lacy may have initiated with a call to the feds.
(Shafer would finish third with 15% of the vote.)
Mollie recalls the raid: “I was going to bed with a migraine headache and they
came running up my driveway with their guns in their riot uniforms. I opened
my arms and said, ‘I entirely submit. You are welcome in my home.’ And they
still forced me to the ground and handcuffed me for two hours. My hands turned
white. I was so cold, my hands were shaking… So they moved me into the trailer.
Then I had to change our granddaughter’s shitty diaper while in handcuffs.
I couldn’t quite wipe… I said to the agent, ‘It’s so hard having five children
and a baby to take care of and cancer…’ And she looked at me and said, ‘You
have cancer?’ And I go, ‘Of course I have cancer, why the hell do you think
I’m doing this!
“Not even the staff that raided me and was abusing me knew the
The September 28, 2001 DEA raid on Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer’s house
in rural El Dorado county could not have come at a worse time, says
Dr. Fry. “Dale was trying to learn to grow indoors. It’s almost impossible.
You have to spend three hours a day every day playing with the plants.
Ours got covered with spider mites and died. I had put them under the
deck, not under lights, figuring Dale would compost them. We had nine
plants growing for me, maybe four feet tall, in full bloom, and three
plants from a woman I knew, a legitimate patient, who was being evicted
and had asked Dale to take care of her plants for her. So we had 12
viable plants, and two of them had toppled over in a windstorm so Dale
brought them into my bedroom to trim. It must have looked like a Christmas
“And the house! At the time of the raid there was a mother and four
children living here, so things were a little disordered. We’ve had
about 50 people living in our house over the years…. When they handcuffed
me I put my hands above my head and said ‘Thank you, praise you, thank
you for making my book a bestseller! Thank you, praise you for electing
my husband district attorney of El Dorado County!’
“The El Dorado cops were there and the DEA. I must have prayed a 20-minute prayer.
They would ask me a question and I would answer yes or no and go right back to
praying. I needed help. And finally they went away. But I think [El Dorado County
DA Gary] Lacy got the word that Dale was really running to win, and a few days
after he was re-elected, we heard that he had gone to the grand jury to get Dale
The DEA sent Fry an order-to-show-cause advising that her prescription-writing
privileges would be revoked because “It is inconsistent with the public interest
for a DEA registered practitioner to live in a residence wherein large quantities
of a controlled substance are being stored, cultivated, manufactured and/or
processed for distribution and/or sale. In addition, it is inconsistent with
the public interest for a DEA registered practitioner to be engaged in the
illegal sale of a Schedule I controlled substance such as marijuana at the
practioner’s registered location.”
The DEA also facilitated the Medical Board’s investigation of Fry
by turning over certain of her patients’ records.
Medical Board Got Records From DEA Illegally,
California Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson and State Sen. John Vasconcellos
moved Aug. 11 that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee determine
whether the state medical board has been investigating doctors for
no other reason than that they specialize in cannabis consultations.
At least nine of the 15 cannabis consultant MDs have been investigated,
and it’s a costly, time-consuming, stressful ordeal no matter what
The request for an audit fell one vote short because Sen. Kevin Murray, a Southern
California Democrat, didn’t show. A reliable source says he’s lazy and irresponsible.
This was a costly screw-up, a missed opportunity to expose the criteria by
which the Board’s Enforcement Division has been choosing which doctors to pursue.
That same week Marian Fry, MD, appeared before Administrative Law Judge Ruth
Astle in Oakland to recommend dismissal of the Medical Board’s case against
her on the grounds that her files had been obtained improperly via the DEA.
Fry, who does cannabis consultations from an office in Cool, California, was
represented by attorney Lawrence Lichter.
The Attorney General’s office, representing the Medical Board, accuses Fry
of providing substandard care to five patients. “Every patient I’ve been asked
about by the medical board has passed through the criminal justice system in
either El Dorado or Sacramento County,” Fry says. “The complaints all came
from district attorneys, not the patients themselves.”
The three patients named in the accusation with whom Fry is still in contact
refused to release their files to the Board, and she assumes the others would
have, too. Conveniently for the Board, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency
had raided the home and offices of Fry and her husband, attorney Dale Schafer,
in September, 2001, confiscating 24 file cabinets containing 6,000 patients’ records.
The Board acknowledges that it obtained Fry’s records from the DEA.
Lichter was able to site a section of the California penal code listing the
steps that have to be taken before law enforcement agencies can share medical
information. Fry’s prosecutors downplayed the significance of code section,
arguing that “law enforcement agencies share information all the time,” and
that it had been done “pursuant to statute.” But the statute they cited was
a federal law authorizing the DEA to release information, not authorizing a
state agency to receive it.
Judge Astle expressed concern about the Medical Board obtaining records without
patients’ consent, or a warrant, or a subpoena, or the involvement of a judge.
She requested more briefing and continued the hearing on the motion to dismiss
till October 1.
See story on this page for the background of Fry’s ordeal.