By JASON BEEKEN
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles answering questions from physicians to help clear confusion and inform about the medical marijuana industry and becoming qualified as certified prescribing physicians.
Medical Marijuana in Florida just recently turned one year old! Amendment 2 was passed in November, 2016 with a with a resounding 71.32 percent of the vote, and allowed Florida to join with 29 other states (plus DC) who allow Medical Marijuana. Before this vote, only low TCH cannabis was available - now THC of any content is available to qualified patients. Still, there are many who are not familiar with the process. Well... The Doctor is IN and we are here to help.
What conditions qualify a patient for Medical Marijuana?
First, the patient must see a qualified ordering physician to be evaluated. Then they must be a resident of Florida - or at least a seasonal resident. Along with that, the Amendment outlines the following qualifying conditions: cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition or that originates from a qualified medical condition or other debilitating medical conditions comparable to those listed. Physicians are also able to qualify patients based on conditions similar to the ones listed above. An example would be Ulcerative Colitis - which is not specifically listed as a condition - but could still qualify a patient based on the condition being similar to Chron's.
If a patient has met the conditions, what happens next?
The next step, is setting the patient up in the Florida Department of Health Registry. Each certified physician has a profile on the website and each of their patients is listed under them on the site. The patients' information is uploaded, which generates two emails that are sent to the patient. From these emails they then must upload proof of residence (Florida Driver's License or ID) and pay the $75.00 processing fee. The Department of Health has recently made changes that allow these functions to all be done online, however if the patient chooses, they may still handle these tasks through the mail. According to the DOH website, the average processing time for online applications is 17 days. This is a generous figure as we still see about a 30 day turn around on the processing. When the patient's information is approved, they will receive an email confirmation that states their approval and delivers their ID card. Once this email is received, the patient will be able purchase their medicine. The patient will eventually receive an actual card to use, which can take another 1 to 4 weeks. The patients can use their email approval as long as needed.
Where do patients purchase their medicine?
Medical marijuana can only be purchased at licensed marijuana treatment centers, also known as dispensaries. These centers are typically nothing like what most people think. In fact, many patients say it is very much like going to the Apple Store at the mall. Very clean, very professional and highly secure. Currently there are two treatment centers in Orlando, with more on the way. Unfortunately, there are counties that have voted not to allow the centers, making it more difficult for patients to obtain their medicine. All of the Treatment Centers do offer home delivery to anywhere within the state to help patients who are not in close proximity of a center. Current forms of the medicine include a liquid inhalation method, liquid tincture, capsules, nebulizers, suppositories, and even transdermal patches. Edible products will be available in the coming months.
We will continue to help you to understand the process as a whole with additional articles. Additional information may be obtained at MARIJUANADOCTOR.COM as well as Floridahealth.gov (office of medical marijuana use).
Jason Beeken is the manager of the Marijuana Doc+or location in Orlando. He can be reached at Jason@marijuanadoctor.com