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Cannabis Advocates Blame Fla. Officials for 'Reefer Madness'

Florida's medical marijuana program currently has 1,314 doctors registered to recommend medical marijuana as a treatment. (Pixabay)
Florida's medical marijuana program currently has 1,314 doctors registered to recommend medical marijuana as a treatment. (Pixabay)
April 24, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida's Medical Cannabis Registry reached a milestone recently with more than 100,000 patients signed up for treatment.

Advocates of cannabis use say that number would've been four times as much if it weren't for state officials searching for ways to restrict use. Nearly two years after voters approved medical marijuana, Florida's Department of Health has been slow to publish regulations for patients, doctors and suppliers. Regulators are fighting a series of legal challenges about the new law.

Christopher Cano, executive director of Central Florida NORML, a local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said patients are also discouraged by excessive costs.

"You have dispensaries charging people $700 to buy a vaporizer that could vape those flower-based medicines," Cano said. "I mean, the cost is probably the biggest hindrance of why there aren't 400,000 patients in the registry right now."

Florida law says the state is supposed to be issuing new licenses to growers and entrepreneurs based on the number of patients in the system. However, the department requires each patient to be active, and so far, just over 75,000 registered patients have been issued IDs to receive treatment.

According to Cano, the limited number of suppliers in the market is causing prices to stay high. He described Florida as nowhere near being on par compared with other states when it comes to successfully regulating use.

"All in all, the issues that we see in the Florida medical marijuana system are due to poor regulations, and a poor job by the Office of Medical Marijuana Use," he said, "and that really does fall back on the executive branch."

The state is appealing a decision by Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers to allow a cancer survivor, Joe Redner, to grow his own marijuana. His doctors argued that juicing marijuana plants was the best source of treatment for his cancer.

Gievers also reminded the Department of Health that it has a duty to enable "the availability and safe use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients."

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL