Discreet prescription refills via telehealth visits are already the norm for medications like hair loss and erectile dysfunction medication for men, which is easier to do when it’s not in-person. The same methods could be used to be discreet and quietly get prescriptions for medical cannabis under a new Florida bill.
House Bill 387 is sponsored by Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers) and would allow practitioners to certify patients for medical cannabis via FaceTime, Skype, etc. visits rather than in-person visits. Roach told the House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee that the bill would “treat this (medical marijuana) like any other medicine.”
Doctors in Florida are doing it anyway, and the bill would simply make the practice legal, lawmakers said in so many words. It would also organize the way the rules are enforced. The bill “would add a necessary and immediate tool to help the department when physicians break the rules,” Roach added.
Barry Gordon specializes in medical cannabis care in Venice, Florida. He told the House panel that using telehealth to be certified would benefit some of the sickest Floridians—the ones who need it most.
“It’s a cost-savings for patients, it’s safe for patients, and it’s critical,” Gordon said at the hearing. “You have to remember that our patients are sometimes the most debilitated and weakest of the patients here in Florida.”
The Tampa Bay Times reports that over 2,500 doctors in Florida completed the training that allows them to order medical cannabis for patients. Voters said yes in 2016 by approving a constitutional amendment that legalizes medical cannabis. Nearly 800,000 patients have been certified for medical cannabis so far.
Currently, doctors must provide a physical examination of a patient “while physically present in the same room as the patient” before certifying them and ordering medical cannabis.
Not so fast, though. The bill also would allow the Department of Health to suspend a physician from being able to order medical cannabis for up to two years if he or she “provides, advertises or markets telehealth services prior to July 1, 2023.”
Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) filed a similar bill for consideration during the 60-day legislative session.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended the state’s face-to-face requirement for medical cannabis due to COVID-19, but it only applied for patients who were renewing medical cannabis certifications. People who need to see new doctors are out of luck. DeSantis’s executive order expired in 2021, but some doctors continue to use telehealth to recertify patients anyways.
Medical Cannabis in Florida
Florida’s Department of Health recently announced that it will open a new round of licensing for medical marijuana businesses that will double the number of vertically integrated cannabis operators in the state. In an emergency rule, the health department revealed that 22 new medical cannabis business licenses will be available, a move that would double the 22 operators currently licensed to produce and sell medical marijuana in Florida. The new emergency rule comes more than six years after Florida voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis.
Meanwhile, the WISE & Free Florida committee is seeking to get home growing in Florida via a proposal on the 2024 ballot, according to the state Division of Elections website. In order to do this, they would need to submit 891,589 valid petition signatures.
Similarly, Smart & Safe Florida is seeking to get an amendment on the 2024 ballot that would legalize adult-use cannabis. The Smart & Safe Florida committee submitted 291,999 valid signatures as of Friday.