Florida Adds 1000 Medical Marijuana Patients Since June

Florida has seen a 60 percent surge in the number of patients being treated with medical marijuana since June.

Florida had 16,760 patients on June 7, according to state reports. Florida added more than 10,000 patients by July 27, for a total of 26,978 on the books –  that’s a 60 percent increase.

At the same time, there’s also been a spike in the number of doctors authorized to recommend cannabis. During that same time, more than 130 new doctors have signed up to be able to recommend marijuana. Florida now has about 950 doctors who can recommend medical marijuana to treat conditions ranging from HIV-AIDS to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Seven companies are now authorized to grow, process and sell medical marijuana, but only four of them have retail storefronts. Two of them only offer delivery, and the seventh has gotten the permission to grow, but hasn’t processed a crop yet.

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a broader medical marijuana program last election. Its implementation, though, has been rocky. Lawmakers had to come back for a special session to pass a cannabis bill, and Orlando attorney John Morgan is suing because it doesn’t allow for smoking.

Florida Tries Again on Medical Marijuana

A bill to fast track some medical marijuana use in Florida is moving forward in the state legislature.

The Senate Health Policy Committee approved the legislation Tuesday in an 8-0 vote.

It would make changes to the law already passed by Florida lawmakers last spring. That measure has yet to help anyone because of legal challenges and bureaucratic delays

“There are just some flaws that need to be corrected in the bill that we passed,” sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley said to the committee as they considered the measure Tuesday.

The new bill expands the list of illnesses for which medical marijuana can be used. The new list includes HIV, epilepsy, ALS, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

The legislation also quadruples, to 20, the number of dispensing organizations allowed across the state.

Importantly, Bradley told the committee, it also establishes a time frame to issue those licenses, to speed up the process and get help to people in need.

“This… fulfills the promise we made to those families in 2014,” said Bradley.

Anneliese Clark’s family was one of those promised help last year. Her 10-year old daughter Christina takes a liquid form of medical cannabis twice a day to treat intractable epilepsy. She’s gone 100 days without a seizure. Clark had to take Christina to California for the treatment.

“Technically I am a criminal, because I chose to save my child rather than watch her suffer,” Clark said.

But Clark is not satisfied with the legislation that moved through the committee. She disputes language that says patients must exhaust all other treatments before turning to medical cannabis.

“We’ve done that and it’s left my daughter crippled, on a feeding tube, and I have millions of dollars in medical bills from trying all those things,” Clark siad outside the hearing.

Clark also argues the state needs to allow higher levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, or the drug won’t help patients like her daughter.

“The politicians didn’t decide how much Tylenol I can take they shouldn’t decide how much cannaboid therapy you can take either,” Clark argued.

Other critics of the legislation say the list of conditions that can be treated should be much longer.

Clark is calling on lawmakers to listen to the experts on medical marijuana, and get past the stigma.

She says the drug is helping patients in many states across the country and in countries around the world. The passionate mother and activist pledges to keep pushing for changes as this legislation moves through the legislature.

“It’s a step forward in that the conversation is continuing. It’s not the end,” she said.

23 states have laws that permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Eleven others allow limited access to marijuana products for treatment of illness.

A voter referendum last fall to legalize marijuana in Florida failed. Supporters say they plan to put the issue on the ballot again in 2016.