New Medical Marijuana Industry Promises Billions In Revenue For Florida

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Laws legalizing medical marijuana went into effect Tuesday in Florida, promising enormous sales in the state and a possible alternative to addictive prescription pills for patients.

Patients seeking marijuana to treat a variety of conditions can officially get medical marijuana legally through participating doctors and dispensaries in the state. The industry is expected to rival Colorado in sales by 2020, bringing jobs, money and patient relief to the state. Estimates say the medical marijuana industry could yield Florida $1.5 billion in sales by 2020, reports WTSP.

Physicians are required to take an eight-hour training course educating them on the potential harms and benefits of issuing medical marijuana or giving a referral. Despite the law officially taking effect Tuesday, doctors and health officials have up to six months to iron out the logistics of distribution. Officials in Florida have already instituted strict and expensive rules on patients seeking medical marijuana that promises a long and rigorous process.

Under the new law patients must have a qualifying condition, previously sought other treatments for the condition and be in treatment with a qualified doctor for three months before marijuana can be considered.

“There has to be this existing physician-patient relationship for at least 90 days,” Richard Blau, an attorney in Florida, told WTSP. “No one wants to see dispensaries on every street corner doling out marijuana to anyone who says they have a headache. The patient would have a certification, they go to a dispensary, they present the certification, and they received the medical marijuana.”

Lawmakers still have a long road ahead in clarifying rules governing growing, medical dispensaries and distribution, which are leaving many patients and doctors confused over the process. Qualified patients are eligible to receive two different kinds of marijuana with varying levels of THC, the psychoactive compound that makes people feel high, reports FOX 13.

Patients with conditions like cancer, severe epilepsy and chronic seizures can receive marijuana with a very low dose of THC, while patients with terminal conditions like HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS and multiple sclerosis can receive marijuana with much higher THC concentrations.

Some health professionals in the state are excited about the possibilities medical marijuana offers patients currently taking prescription opioids, the highly addictive pain medications helping propel the national heroin epidemic.

“I think it’s a lot easier for him [doctors] to make a decision on marijuana than for opioids,” Sunai Edwards, a Florida attorney who’s husband is a physician, told WTSP. “He gets a lot of people in a lot of pain. It’s a scary decision to make as a physician.”

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