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Medical marijuana emerges as growth industry in Florida

Most of Dr. Ellis’ patients that use medical marijuana range in age from the late 20s to the 60s; a few are in their 80s. Some are military veterans like Ellis, a former Navy doctor. “I saw this as being a service that could help a lot of veterans,” she says.

The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. “A lot of these people work. They are not sitting in the house dying,” says Ellis, whose practice at 2520 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, is a mix of home and office visits and telemedicine. “This is definitely helping with their lives.”

Dr. Natalie Ellis is one of the few doctors who do house calls these days. She serves a downtown community in St. Petersburg, visiting patients when they are sick or when young children make it inconvenient for them to come to the office.

Much like Dr. Quinn of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Dr. Ellis is a pioneer. She is one of a growing number of Florida physicians licensed to treat patients with cannabis.

The newly licensed medical marijuana practitioners are learning as they go. “All of this is really new,” she says. “There’re a lot of people that still don’t know it’s legal.”

Marijuana is a Schedule 1 illegal drug under federal law, but the momentum is growing for full or partial legalization. Florida has joined 43 other U.S. states and the District of Columbia in allowing some form of medical marijuana, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The Sunshine State passed a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in November 2016. Doctors have been undergoing special state training and 13 medical marijuana treatment centers (click here for a list of current Florida Medical Marijuana Dispensaries as of May 2018) have been licensed through the state Office for Medical Marijuana Use.

In Florida, the term medical marijuana refers to all parts of the cannabis plant, including its seeds and resin, and any compound made from it and dispensed at a state medical marijuana treatment center. Legally, it can’t be smoked. However, a number of conditions can be treated legally, including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and chronic pain related to medical conditions that qualify for treatment.

Medical marijuana in Florida may contain significant amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is responsible for the high associated with marijuana. Low-THC products, which rely on cannabidiol or CDB for its health benefits, don’t have the euphoric properties and are considered to be distinct.

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