But here’s the counter-intuitive bit: while medical marijuana is openly available in Florida, it remains illegal under federal law and is still deemed a “schedule 1” narcotic (meaning it is lumped with heroin and cocaine as having the highest potential for abuse).
In states where medical marijuana is legal, like Florida, doctors can only “recommend” it or issue written certifications for patients, rather than “prescribe” it. Currently, it’s most often used to treat PTSD, pain, nausea and medical conditions including Alzheimers, cancer, and epilepsy but some studies have shown that compounds in marijuana might successfully treat conditions as wide-ranging as acne or anxiety.
Published May 31st
The state’s supply of medical cannabis is cultivated by seven nurseries located across Florida, which supply non-euphoric strains that are low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to dispensaries around the state. There are two medical marijuana dispensaries in Jacksonville: Trulieve and Knox. Under current Florida law, they can provide patients with both THC and CBD (Cannabidiol, another cannabis compound) products, including vape oil, oral tinctures, balms and other medical products. Vaporizers and oils are currently the most-purchased products. Making the user high isn’t the goal and smoking marijuana, whether it’s for a medical purpose or not, remains illegal…
Dr. Joshua Henry, a family and sports medicine physician, used to rely on opioids to help manage his patients’ pain. With the legalization of medical marijuana, he’s been given a new option, one without nearly as many negative side effects. “I’ve been a long-time prescriber of opioids,” notes Henry. “That’s just what you do after people have surgery and it always seemed that there had to be a better way.”
“What we wrote in the constitution is that a physician must issue a certification—simply a statement saying that a patient has been diagnosed with a debilitating condition, based on their medical history,” says Ben Pollara, a political consultant and the executive director of Florida for Care, a medical marijuana advocacy group founded in 2014. He helped draft Amendment 2, though he says the law’s rollout has strayed somewhat from the bill’s original intention, namely to provide patients easy access to
medical marijuana. “What the state legislature did was require all of that and also that doctors make very specific recommendations as to dosage, amounts and more.” In other words, the state’s rollout of Amendment 2 has made it unattractive for physicians to recommend medical marijuana.
Florida for Care will host a series of events across the state over the next six months geared toward proactive physician outreach, all in an effort to get new doctors into the program and educate them about medical marijuana. The two-hour course physicians are currently required to take in order to enroll in the program doesn’t educate them about marijuana at all, says Pollara. “Instead, it’s entirely about the law. Doctors aren’t being educated about the usage of marijuana in the practice of medicine.”
Since the passage of Amendment 2, Pollara has been a vocal proponent of strengthening the law and ensuring it’s rolled out properly. “The Florida legislature has put in place a mostly strong framework for a patient- and physician-friendly medical marijuana system on a moving-forward basis,” he says. “But it needs to be tweaked and it’s still in need of complete implementation.” According to Pollara, there are still at least a dozen regulatory actions that the State Department of Health needs to determine in order to fully implement Amendment 2: regulations governing edibles and lab testing requirements, for instance.