One year after Amendment 2 went into action, permitting the use of medical marijuana for qualifying patients, and Floridians are still having to jump through hoops to get medical marijuana.
The law, which was voted on in November 2016, became effective in January 2017.
Julie Anderson, manager of Certified Marijuana Doctors, said her patients are unhappy with how difficult obtaining medical marijuana is. Her patients, she said, are well educated people who go out, vote and pick up the phone to call the governor’s office.
She said four patients have died while waiting for their medical marijuana cards to be issued by the Department of Health.
“Our oldest patient is 101 years old,” she said. “We have many patients in their 80s and 90s, and they all think it’s ridiculous what they have to go through to get access to marijuana to treat their conditions.”
Bob Gifford, manager of the company’s North Miami office, said the process to get a medical marijuana card is extremely slow because nothing is done digitally. A person must be first be a patient for at least three months before they can apply to the registry. They must then send an application with a printed photo ID and a check of $75 to Tallahassee.
“It can take up to 30 days for someone to get put on the registry,” Gifford said. “With so many people applying, the state can’t keep up.”
State officials are not trying to speed up the process, Gifford suggested, because it allows growers to try to keep up with the demand. Products sold in state dispensaries come only from Florida growers, according to Tyler Smith, assistant manager at Knox Medical, a Lake Worth dispensary.
“The higher concentrates are the most popular,” he said. “There’s times we run out, but we offer delivery services so we can bring it to customers when it’s back in stock.”
Currently the only medical marijuana sold in Florida is in the form of concentrated oils. Gifford said people voted to be able to use the entire plant, not a concentrate squeezed out by a machine.
“This keeps the black market thriving because people are not going to stop smoking their bud because a politician doesn’t want them to,” he said.
Most of the marijuana found on the streets is contaminated with either mold, mildew and/or pesticides, Anderson said, adding that they are especially dangerous if used by someone with a medical condition. She said there are highly medicinal aspects of the plant that residents are unable to get from a concentrate.
Anderson used the example of a man in Tampa who filed a lawsuit to access the acidic versions of CBD and THC—forms unavailable in Florida because the plant must be freshly squeezed from the garden.
“The acidic versions are highly medicinal and very potent in antioxidants,” she said. “They don’t get you high. They’re very good for pain.”
On Jan. 24, Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the state’s medical marijuana law could allow Tampa resident Joe Redner to grow his own plant to help treat his Stage IV lung cancer, according to Politico.
Gifford said patients want to be able to grow their medicine in their yards, adding that patients in Western states can grow 6-10 marijuana plants in their own gardens, a more affordable option for patients.
Many desire medical marijuana as an alternative to pharmaceutically marketed medicine, according to Anderson. She said patients want to be able to easily access nontoxic, natural remedies that help their conditions.
“We have an opioid crisis in this country and we have quite a few patients who are weaning themselves off opioids and replacing it with medical marijuana,” she said.