Florida flag with cannabis leaves

Sunshine State of Cannabis

Upon its passing on March 13, patients are allowed to possess up to four ounces of cannabis at a time and may purchase up to 2.5 ounces per 35 day period. It is recommended patients speak with their doctor’s office and ask how they will be adding smoking recommendations for patients who would like this option.

SB 182

SB 182 legalizes the smoking of medical cannabis in private locations and requires a doctor to enter a new recommendation for patients. Patients will need to let their doctors know their prior cannabis use history and mention the effectiveness of alternative methods. This is another barrier to access and will take more time and money from sick patients, patients who already smoke cannabis and know it is best for them. Patients will now need to contact their doctor to be allowed to do something many already do in other medical states.

Pod problems

Dispensaries, or Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs), are required to package the cannabis in opaque (non­see through) containers although they are free to display and show the whole flower in store before patients make a purchase. This is very welcomed after the “flower pods” sold in ceramic and metal containers has become its own health hazard.

Aside from the evident and well-studied benefits of smokable flower, Florida’s market truly needs it now more than ever. Many Florida MMTCs have sold “flower pods” routinely failing to meet any basic human consumption quality control standards. Problems with Florida “flower pods/cups” range from alleged mold spores, underweight (.5-1g under) product, and plastic or grow netting and other debris within the containers. This is unacceptable for vaporization or smoking, and had patients not opened the pods (it was illegal) they would not have known the health risk they were exposing themselves to.

Cost and reliability

We all can agree people will choose the least expensive and most reliable option when purchasing most things. Medicine isn’t any different … people travel to have surgeries performed and look for bargains when getting health insurance or buying their prescriptions. With cannabis, people will continue to use the black market for less expensive, and sometimes higher quality, medicine. Folks will drive to Colorado and purchase as much as they can and head back to Florida. That’s a major felony, or two. But why is it a felony? Why is this any different than going to purchase any other good or commodity (or medicine) somewhere where it is less expensive and higher quality? We call this the “gray” market. It is so commonplace that the governor of Colorado and other legal states have jokingly said (paraphrase) “please don’t legalize marijuana in your states!” And what they are saying is that they benefit greatly from being the only legal states (10 adult use, 31 medical).

Dispensary bans

So, now that we can safely assume SB 182 will give patients an easier option to get safe, affordable whole flower, what else must be fixed? Dispensary bans must be overcome. Since amendment two passed in 2016 by over 71.3%, several towns and counties have banned dispensaries. These bans have no basis in science or facts. They are carried out by uneducated and typically willfully ignorant, small-town politicians. Often these votes don’t get much advertising and the community did not have the opportunity to give their input. Meanwhile, the politicians invite their friends from “Drug-Free America” and their many chapters through the state or similar Mel Sembler­esque groups. These small-town politicians vote on something they are incapable of speaking intelligently on.

Dispensaries have been banned in places such as Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Margate, Pembroke Pines, Collier County, and many more. Yet lots of places are changing their minds after being fully educated on the matter. After most of the common myths are dispelled, and the politicians are assured the Devil’s lettuce does not actually have roots in hell, they come around.

Collier County is explicitly still very behind the times. Two commissioners, Fiala and Taylor, have indicated through their votes and statements that they do not fully believe in the medicinal necessity of cannabis for our sick and hurting citizens of Collier. So long as delivery is an option, they do not see a limitation. After dozens of patients have urged them, we still wait…

At the Capitol

Recently, I spent time at the State Capitol speaking to lawmakers. I talked to individuals ranging from Rep. Ray Rodriguez to Rep. Mercado and Rep. Sabatini. Rep. Sabatini is a GOP member who fully supports adult-use cannabis. Seeing more bipartisan support with cannabis bills is always a good sign of our future political climate.

Patients over profits

As Florida’s nascent cannabis market starts to blossom, we must take a moment to look past the marketing campaigns from corporate cannabis, past the tie-dye, buy-one-get-one (BOGO) deals, first-time discounts, outreach, and yes even past the donations and sponsorship money. What we should look at and judge the state of our cannabis program on, is simple: The patient. The patient deserves a reasonably priced, consistent, honestly marketed, and reliable product/medicine. They do not need confusing marketing campaigns, half-truths, and over­priced products lacking medical value which some Florida MMTCs currently offer.

Florida’s medical cannabis program needs to refocus the emphasis off the MMTCs and their investors and back on to the patient. We should always look to work together with individuals when we find common ground. Let’s continue to let cannabis be our common ground. And most importantly, let’s make the patient the most important part of the fight because we can all agree that “we” are what is most important. Let’s continue to speak up against the vertical market and reshape focus to the patient. And let’s do this together.

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