Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

First medical marijuana available next week in Florida

The first dispensary will begin selling medical marijuana legally next week in Florida.  [Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP]

The first dispensary will begin selling medical marijuana legally next week in Florida. [Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP]

TALLAHASSEE — Two years after state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott approved it, Florida's first medical cannabis dispensary is scheduled to open next week.

The Florida Department of Health on Wednesday gave Trulieve, a North Florida grower and dispensary, permission to open in Tallahassee and start delivering cannabis statewide.

When Trulieve opens Tuesday, it will be the first time strains of the drug will be available under a 2014 law meant to give patients with cancer and seizures access to a strain of medical marijuana low in THC, the chemical that causes a euphoric high.

Five additional nurseries are growing and extracting oil from cannabis, according to the DOH, and could soon join Trulieve in legally selling medical marijuana.

For parents like Donna Perez of Sebring, the news comes as a relief.

Perez's 3-year-old son, Noah, suffers from intractable epilepsy and severe seizures. She spends all day by Noah's side taking care of him, making sure he takes six medications every day.

Noah still suffers from seizures, Perez said. He can hardly smile anymore.

"Maybe he can function for a day or not have seizures for a day or not choke," she said. "Even if it doesn't work it would be worth a try."

Patients, many of whom are children, have been waiting as legal challenges and the drafting of state regulations delayed the drug's release.

It has prompted many to find other, often illegal, sources for the drug, said Moriah Barnhart of Tampa, who founded the organization CannaMoms two years ago.

"We're spending all night watching our children to make sure they're still alive and at the same time watching out the window to make sure we're not being raided" by police, she said.

Barnhart's 5-year-old daughter, Dahlia, was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer three years ago. She has been using cannabis oil since 2013, and Barnhart says it has had a dramatic effect, reducing Dahlia's pain and increasing her appetite.

The opening of the state's first dispensary is a huge symbolic victory, Barnhart said. She's currently in Tennessee, where Dahlia is being treated.

"Going home from this one short trip to the hospital and returning to a state that's legal and has cannabis in the ground and on shelves is pretty immense," she said.

To access the drug legally under the new program, patients must be approved by a doctor who has passed a medical cannabis course. Then, they can place an order with any of the licensed dispensaries in the state.

Trulieve plans to open additional dispensaries outside Tallahassee, CEO Kim Rivers said, In the meantime, patients can order the drug from anywhere in the state. It takes less than a week to be delivered, she said.

"We know that patients have been waiting for a long time," Rivers said. "We thought that it was critical to open as soon as possible to get patients the medications they have been waiting for."

Other licensed growers are close to releasing their first products, as well. Alpha/Surterra, based in Tampa and Tallahassee, had its first harvest last week and plans to start selling later this summer.

State law allows dispensaries to sell cannabis oil to be injected, taken as a pill or consumed by methods other than smoking.

Full-strength medical marijuana will be available for terminally ill patients in early August. The Florida Legislature this spring passed a law allowing patients within a year of death to try the drug if two doctors think it will help them.

Patients with a wider range of conditions could have access to full-strength marijuana if a constitutional amendment legalizing the drug for medical purposes passes in this November's election.

Contact Michael Auslen at mauslen@tampabay.com. Follow @MichaelAuslen.

First medical marijuana available next week in Florida 07/20/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 8:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. What you need to know for Thursday, Oct. 19

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today

    White nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to speak at the University of Florida tonight and the school is on high alert for tensions. [Associated Press]
  2. Bowen: Park land deal raises Penny for Pasco questions

    Environment

    The Penny for Pasco is unambiguous.

    At least it is supposed to be.

    There was no equivocating in 2004 when Penny for Pasco supporters detailed how the sales tax proceeds would be spent: schools, transportation, public safety and environmental lands. No money for parks. No money for recreation.

    Pasco County is considering a loan from its Environmental Lands Acquisition and Mangement Program to buy land for a park in the Villages of Pasadena Hills in east-central Pasco. Shown here is the Jumping Gully Preserve in Spring Hil, acquired by ELAMP in 2009 and 2011.
[Douglas R. Clifford, Times]
  3. Another Tampa Bay agency loses tax credits worth millions in dispute over application error

    News

    LARGO — Another Tampa Bay housing agency has lost out on a multi-million dollar tax credit award because of problems with its application.

    A duplex in Rainbow Village, a public housing complex in Largo. The Pinellas County Housing Authority is planning to build new affordable-housing in the complex but was recently disqualified from a state tax credit award because of an issue with its application.
  4. Live blog: Many unknowns as Richard Spencer speaks in Gainesville today

    College

    GAINESVILLE — A small army of law enforcement officers, many of them from cities and counties around the state, have converged on the University of Florida in preparation for today's speaking appearance by white nationalist Richard Spencer.

    Florida Highway Patrol cruisers jammed the parking lot Wednesday at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center in Gainesville, part of a big show of force by law enforcement ahead of Thursday's appearance by white nationalist Richard Spencer. [KATHRYN VARN | Times]
  5. As Clearwater Marine Aquarium expands, it asks the city for help

    Growth

    CLEARWATER — When Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates saw an architect's initial design for the facility's massive expansion project, he told them to start all over.

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium Veterinarian Shelly Marquardt (left), Brian Eversole, Senior Sea Turtle and Aquatic Biologist (middle) and Devon Francke, Supervisor of Sea Turtle Rehab, are about to give a rescued juvenile green sea turtle, suffering from a lot of the Fibropapillomatosis tumors, fluids at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Wednesday afternoon. Eventually when the turtle is healthy enough the tumors will be removed with a laser and after it is rehabilitated it will be released back into the wild.  -  The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is launching a $66 million renovation to expand its facilities to take in injured animals and space to host visitors. The aquarium is asking the city for a $5 million grant Thursday to help in the project. American attitudes toward captive animals are changing. Sea World is slipping after scrutiny on the ethics of captive marine life. But CEO David Yates says CMA is different, continuing its mission of rehab and release, it's goal is to promote education, not exploitation. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times