1. Health

Answers to 12 questions you may have about using medical marijuana in Florida

TYLISA C. JOHNSON | TIMES Kristina Risola, director of operations at Florida Medical Cannabis Clinic, sees both sides of the medical cannabis coin, as both a patient and medical professional. Here, Risola displays her cannabis medication, including a pen that vaporizes the medication.
Published May 4, 2018

Medical marijuana became broadly legal in Florida nearly 15 months ago, after an overwhelming number of Floridians, about 71 percent, approved a constitutional amendment that expanded the list of qualified medical conditions. Medical marijuana is available in Florida, but remains illegal under federal law.

Now that it has come to Pasco, the Tampa Bay Times compiled a list of frequently asked questions about this new medication.

How do I become a legal medical marijuana patient?

A Florida resident who wants to become a medical marijuana patient must do the following:

1. See a qualified physician for a certification exam.

Florida has nearly 1,300 physicians — including 20 in Pasco County — qualified and registered to determine if a patient should use medical marijuana. Physicians do an initial exam, take into account medical records and may diagnose a qualifying condition.

2. Register and obtain a medical marijuana use registry identification card.

A qualified physician places potential patients on the state's medical marijuana use registry, so they can apply for the state identification card. Potential patients, or their caregivers, must submit an application to the state's Office of Medical Marijuana Use, either mailed-in or online, with a copy of a state ID or proof of residency and the required $75 fee. An approved passport photo is required with the application if it's being mailed to the office. Identification cards expire one year after the approved date. Patients or caregivers can renew the card by submitting an application 45 days before the expiration date.

3. Purchase medication at a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary.

No medical marijuana dispensaries are operating in Pasco County, but they could be soon. Until then, patients can buy from two dispensing stores in Tampa — Surterra Wellness and Trulieve. Delivery is available to the Tampa Bay area from a handful of companies in Florida.

How long does it take to get a medical marijuana registry identification card?

It usually takes about two to four weeks. According to a recent release from the state's Office of Medical Marijuana Use, paper applications were processed in about 23 days, and online applications took about 17 days. However, patients no longer have to wait for a physical card to come in the mail. They can temporarily use an e-mail approval from the state.

What conditions qualify?

Medical marijuana can be an alternative for a number of medical conditions, such as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), terminal illnesses, or "other debilitating medical conditions," the law says.

Some of those other conditions, multiple physicians told the Tampa Bay Times, could be anxiety, depression, chronic pain, endometriosis, premenstrual syndrome, sleep disorders, arthritis, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease and gastrointestinal disorders.

RELATED: Pasco residents find relief using medical marijuana

Is medical marijuana covered by insurance?

Insurance does not cover costs, because medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

Can a doctor prescribe me medical marijuana?

No, prescribing medical marijuana is illegal under federal law. Doctors and other healthcare providers can only recommend or issue written certifications.

RELATED: A Budding Business: Pasco doctors focus in on medical marijuana

How do I get medical marijuana if I can't move around?

Some physicians make house calls for patients or potential patients who are unable to move around easily, such as severely sick or hospice patients. Delivery services also are an option.

Can I grow my own marijuana?

No, but a Florida judge recently granted Joe Redner, of Tampa, the ability to home-grow marijuana to treat his lung cancer. The 77-year-old strip club owner was allowed to grow marijuana for medical use as of April 11, a circuit judge in Tallahassee decided. No law change took place, because the order is pending an appeal filed by the state's Department of Health.

Can I smoke medical marijuana?

State law bans smokable marijuana, but an Orlando attorney is challenging that ban.

If I use medical marijuana, will I feel high?

Not necessarily. When physicians write orders for patients, they take into account a patient's needs and preferences. Patients with certain conditions, including the severe nausea or lack of appetite experienced by some cancer patients, may have orders that suggest a drug combination that gives a euphoric high, but other strains don't.

Are different products and strains available at dispensaries?

Yes. Many dispensaries offer different strains of dried marijuana specialized to treat various ailments and symptoms.

Beyond that, some dispensaries offer oils, concentrates, liquids that can be vaporized, topical ointments, pills, edibles, wax and accessories.

Will I test positive for THC?

It depends on the product. Patients using cannabidiol, or CBD medicines, may not test positive. Other cannabis medications will cause patients to test positive.

How do I find a doctor, dispensary or delivery service?

Visit the state's Office of Medical Marijuana website to see a list of approved treatment centers.

For more information, click here to visit the state's Office of Medical Marijuana Use website.


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