How is your healthcare practice affected?
By MICHAEL C. PATTERSON
The Florida Medical Marijuana (MMJ) industry has doubled in less than one year. As of November 22, 2019, there are over 400,000 patients who are qualified to use MMJ in the Florida Department of Health, Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) system. The number of patients in the OMMU system has doubled since the beginning of 2019. This trend will most likely continue as more dispensaries open and become more prevalent across the state. There are currently 200 dispensaries open in Florida with 2-3 dispensaries opening each week.
One of the areas of the Florida MMJ program that is somewhat surprising is the amount of use of marijuana “flower” – or better known as “bud” – as the form of MMJ used for medicine. More than 1.82 million ounces of smokable medical marijuana were ordered for 128,040 patients over a six-month period, a new state report shows. That translates to 113,922 pounds, or 57 tons, of flower marijuana within the last six months (since smokable flower just became officially legal in March 2019).
The report, compiled on behalf of the state Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine, shows that 44 percent of 291,865 patients certified to use medical marijuana as of September 30, 2019 are smoking it. Patients in Florida can use medical marijuana to treat 10 specific conditions which include cancer, HIV, AIDS, chronic neuropathic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, patients who suffer from conditions that are the same kind as the 10 specific conditions can qualify for MMJ.
Most of the patients who qualified, or 162,277, had just one condition. A small number of patients, or 5,644, suffered from four or more qualifying conditions, the report showed. Most patients, 34 percent, qualified for medical marijuana for treatment of non-malignant pain, followed by the broader “same kind” category, 29 percent, and post-traumatic stress disorder, 22.6 percent.
The report is based on data from the Medical Marijuana Use Registry which contains information about patients and physicians who certify patients. It also relies on information from the Division of Medical Quality Assurance licensure database, which contains the licensure data for all licensed practitioners, as well as the practitioner profiles for allopathic and osteopathic physicians.
How does this information affect my healthcare business?
This trend of increasing use of MMJ will continue for multiple reasons: decreased stigma of MMJ use, increased physician support via more physicians qualified to recommend MMJ (over 2,500 MDs in FL now eligible to recommend MMJ), and more access via increased dispensaries and home delivery. As a healthcare business owner, more and more of your patients will be using MMJ and it will be affecting their overall health.
As a physician or physician practice, it is imperative to learn more about MMJ and how it can affect patients, good or bad, in your area of practice. The more you can open up a conversation about MMJ use with your patients, the better equipped you will be to properly ascertain their true medical history and current medications being taken. If you don’t think MMJ will affect your patients or your clinical practice, you are mistaken. Your patients are already using MMJ, but not telling you about it. Open up the dialogue about MMJ. Record data on which patients are using MMJ and document the progress of their health. This data will help you understand if your patients are benefitting from using MMJ or if it is inhibiting their health in some way.
Michael C. Patterson, founder and CEO of U.S. Cannabis Pharmaceutical Research & Development of Melbourne, is a consultant for the development of the medical marijuana industry nationwide and in Florida. He serves as a consultant to Gerson Lehrman Group, New York and helps educate GLG partners on specific investment strategies and public policy regarding Medical Marijuana in the U.S. and Internationally. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org