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New changes will be coming to medical marijuana in Florida this January after more than 70% of voters said “Yes” to Amendment 2 during the November elections.
Since 2015, medical marijuana doctors in Florida have been able to provide only non-smoked marijuana with low THC levels to qualifying patients. One of the biggest changes in Amendment 2 will be the ability to prescribe full-strength legal medical marijuana to patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s, post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or other debilitating conditions as deemed necessary by doctors.
The new policy will help many more patients receive medical marijuana for pain management associated with chronic illness. An estimated 500,000 people will become eligible for a Florida medical marijuana card once the changes take effect on January 3, 2017.
To help accommodate the growth in demand, six new dispensary locations have been issued licenses from the state, and three more may soon be on their way.
“The voters have spoken. It is our duty as their elected representatives to implement this amendment appropriately,” said state Representative Dana Young (R-Tampa), chair of the Florida Senate Health Policy Committee.
Some critics of the new legislature fear that medical marijuana will lead to a slippery slope of drug de-regulation, or that marijuana serves as a “gateway drug” to other forms of substance abuse. But the bulk of medical research shows that medical marijuana is beneficial for patients suffering from chronic pain and that it is less habit-forming than even legal substances such as alcohol. An estimated 13.8 million Americans (roughly seven percent of the adult population) have a drinking problem, including 8.1 million who are alcoholics. By comparison, roughly 4.1 million Americans are considered “dependent” on marijuana.
At the same time, some proponents of medical marijuana believe that Amendment 2 does not do enough to help patients in need. Currently, medical marijuana doctors can only prescribe the drug to their patients after three months of treatment. That may hinder advanced-stage cancer patients with limited time left, for example, from acquiring the relief they can get from the drug.
Nevertheless, Amendment 2 is a great step forward for medical health practitioners and medical marijuana doctors in Florida. The new changes will help doctors across the state better serve their patients and provide better care for all Floridians.