Monday, July 30, 2018
This local Florida article, headlined "Marijuana booming as state nears 2-year mark," reports on (unsurprising?) medical marijuana realities in the Sunshine State. Here are highlights from the lengthy piece:
More than 100,000 Floridians now can legally take marijuana for medicinal purposes. This milestone, reached in April, is one of many signs that Florida’s young marijuana industry is booming as the state approaches the two-year anniversary of voters legalizing medical pot.
But issues remain: Some patients complain that the Florida Department of Health’s rules create unfair barriers for patients. They can’t smoke their marijuana or grow their own, for example. They also gripe about the patient approval process and the cost of medication. Companies eager to jump into the marijuana business are waiting for the state to issue additional licenses required by law upon passing the 100,000-patient mark....
In November 2016, 71 percent of Florida’s voters gave the green light to medical marijuana. The state still is issuing guidelines and battling lawsuits over how that should be done. But the direction is clear. Already, analysts are projecting a $1 billion medical marijuana market in Florida by 2020.
Fourteen companies have received licenses from the state. They’ve opened 43 dispensaries statewide, including offices in Summerfield and Lady Lake, to serve the growing number of approved patients, which has more than doubled since the start of the year. The coveted licenses are drawing attention from established marijuana businesses. In June, California-based MedMen paid $53 million to acquire the cultivation and distribution rights from Treadwell Nursery in Eustis....
[T]he process to become a qualifying doctor [initially meant] doctors were required to pay $1,000 for an eight-hour course. That requirement has since decreased to a two-hour course costing $250. More than 1,500 physicians now are able to recommend marijuana to patients, including more than 40 in Sumter, Lake and Marion counties.
Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties have the most registered physicians, with more than 200 each. Demand for doctors persists, with 1,500 to 3,500 patients joining the registry every week....
Even as more and more people line up for treatment, criticism of the program continues. Companies and advocates of Amendment 2, which authorized medical marijuana, are challenging some of the rules laid out by the Department of Health. Attorney John Morgan sued the department over its rule banning smokeable cannabis, arguing it goes against the will of the voters who approved the amendment. Vaping is allowed. Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers sided with Morgan, saying the restriction was unconstitutional. The state immediately appealed the decision, and Morgan tried to get the Florida Supreme Court to consider the case. He now is focusing on legalizing recreational use.
Morgan criticized Gov. Rick Scott, who had opposed the broad legalization of medical marijuana, for allowing the smoking ban. Scott defended following the law as it is written. He is not alone in voicing smoking opposition. The American Society of Addiction Medicine rejects smoking as a means of drug delivery for medical purposes. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the ACS’s advocacy group, has not taken a position on legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, citing a need for more scientific research on marijuana’s potential benefits and harms.