Las Vegas physician sentenced for illegal distribution of painkiller

A Las Vegas doctor who advocates medical marijuana therapy was sentenced to two years in federal prison Monday for unlawfully distributing addictive painkillers.

James Tinnell, 74, pleaded guilty in federal court in October to one count of distributing the drugs.

Eleven other drug distribution charges against Tinnell, who has given up his longtime medical practice, were dismissed.

Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt on Monday also ordered that Tinnell be placed on two years of supervised release after he gets out of prison.

Hunt ordered Tinnell not to prescribe prescription drugs to anyone while he is on supervised release.

In arguing for the two-year prison sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Crane Pomerantz said Tinnell contributed to the "epidemic" of prescription drug abuse in Nevada.

But Tinnell told Hunt he was aware of his professional responsibility when prescribing drugs and always handed out smaller doses than many of his professional colleagues.

"If I did anything to my patients that was harmful to them, I am sorry," he said. "It was like a war every day to keep them from getting more and more."

Hunt said he shared Pomerantz's opinion and told Tinnell he was concerned that the physician had "dispensed these very powerful drugs" to patients with little or no physical exam.

Hunt gave Tinnell, who is free on his own recognizance, until Aug. 10 to surrender to prison authorities.

Tinnell, who ran a medical office at 2900 E. Desert Inn Road, admitted in his plea agreement that he intentionally distributed oxycodone, also known as Percocet, between July 2010 and April 2011 without a legitimate medical purpose.

After Monday's sentencing, Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said Tinnell was one of 70 people, including four doctors, charged by local federal prosecutors with unlawfully distributing prescription painkillers in the past two years.

Tinnell represented himself as a pain management specialist and an advocate of medical marijuana therapy, according to prosecutors.

Tinnell once said he had recommended medical marijuana to nearly 200 patients, including former activist Pierre Werner, who was sentenced to 41 months in prison in November for his role in a family-run marijuana dispensary.

Contact Jeff German at or 702-380-8135.