Florida’s First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Will Open Next Week

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It has been two years since Florida Governor Rick Scott put his signature on a modest bill legalizing low-THC cannabis products for the state’s seriously ill patients, an act that spawned more trials and tribulations than productivity, causing many of the people who qualify for the program to abandon all hope. However, the wait for medicine is apparently over – the state’s first medical marijuana dispensary is scheduled to open next week.

On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Heath gave permission to Trulieve, the state’s chosen cannabis company of the north, to begin selling medical marijuana in its Tallahassee dispensary and making deliveries to patients all over Florida. The dispensary will reportedly provide those people who qualify for participation in the program with non-smokeable cannabis products ranging from capsules to vapor liquids.

“We are happy to announce that we have passed all inspections— from growing and processing to dispensing— and are the very first medical cannabis provider in the state to receive these formal authorizations. And we are most excited to get this much anticipated medicine to the patients of Florida,” Kim Rivers, CEO for Trulieve, said in a statement. “The Department of Health staff and leadership have been consummate professionals throughout this entire process. They have been accessible and knowledgeable all along the way, and we simply could not ask for better public servants.”

The language of the state’s 2014 Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act allows patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy and a couple of other conditions to purchase non-intoxicating forms of medical marijuana, as long as they have permission from a doctor. The program, which struggled to see the light of day, is the result of a couple of lawmakers who jumped on the “Charlotte’s Web” bandwagon, years ago, and convinced the state government that this particular strain of cannabis, one that was popularized by Dr. Sanja Gupta’s ‘Weed’ documentary series, could be a salvation’s wing for patients living in the Sunshine State.

Unfortunately, while this brand of medical marijuana will likely help a handful of patients, like Donna Perez’s 3-year-old son, Noah, who has intractable epilepsy and endures extremely harsh seizures, the program falls short by suggesting that there is no medicinal value in THC. Although the high-CBD strains that will soon be distributed throughout Florida have had great success in controlling the frequency of seizures in some patients, these breeds do not have the same effect on all people.

“We saw minor seizure control and developmental progress with CBD alone, but we didn’t see real seizure control until we added measurable levels of THC to the mix,” said Brian Wilson, whose daughter, Vivian, was featured on Dr. Gupta’s CNN special ‘Weed 2’. “Others see great results with THCA added in. Some see very good results with no CBD, like in New Jersey where there is little to no CBD available. The point is, this is highly individualized medicine. There is no magic bullet.”

Yet parents like Perez are anxious to give the Florida Legislature’s version of medical marijuana a shot in hopes that it will improve the quality of life for their children.

“Maybe [Noah] can function for a day or not have seizures for a day or not choke,” she told the Miami Herald. “Even if it doesn’t work it would be worth a try.”

Although the CBD program will only help a select few, there is hope that later this year John Morgan and crew will pass a voter initiative seeking to legalize a comprehensive medical marijuana program. United for Care’s Amendment 2 is back on the ballot in 2016 after a narrow miss two years ago. If voters approve the language, full strength medical marijuana will be made available to patients with “cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”


photo: Getty Images

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