Questions remain as thousands of patients wait for medical marijuana

Medical marijuana distribution has become one of Florida's fastest growing industries.

At the Trulieve Dispensary in Miami business is booming.

"We deliver next day to anywhere that doesn't have a dispensary," Victoria Walker said.

The state now has 12 licensed medical marijuana growers and 1,000 certified physicians can now order the drug for more than 36,000 registered patients in the state and the expansion continues.

"So you'll have 17 nurseries and each of those nurseries with the current patient base can open 25 dispensaries, so that over 400 dispensaries that could be popping up throughout the state. So it will become a very competitive market," Seth Hyman, a special projects director with Kelley Kronenberg, said.

Dr. Bruce Stratt was an interventional radiologist and recently he took the state required online course, certifying him to recommend medical marijuana to his patients.

He says some patients are confused about what they are really getting.

"One thing I think people should know is that medical marijuana is a completely different substance than the recreational or street marijuana," Stratt, who works with Lifeboost, said. "It's almost a different plant." 

It's true, medical marijuana does have varying degrees of THC -- that's the mind-altering compound in the cannabis plant.

And there are other differences.

You can't smoke medical marijuana in Florida.

The pot is distilled into pills or oils that can be vaped, rubbed on the skin, or taken as droplets under the tongue.

Dispensaries can't make anything that looks like a candy, so edibles are almost impossible to find. As for who qualify, you have to have a debilitating medical condition, but doctors have a lot of leeway on that.

"A doctor can order medical marijuana if he feels his patient has a condition that is like one of the qualifying conditions and he feels the patient would benefit from medical marijuana and the benefits outweigh the risks of any therapy," Stratt said.

And there are still many unknowns, which is one reason the Florida Department of Health is fielding hundreds of calls a day.

For instance, if your company has a zero -olerance drug policy could you lose your job by using medical marijuana?

"It's still a very gray area but this is a very concerning issue for employers throughout Florida," Hyman said.

Bill Leon doesn't have to worry about that question.

He's a retired. 

Leon was a New York City officer who used to work on the drug task force.

Three back surgeries left Leon with scar tissue and constant pain.

"I cried because of the pain," Leon said. "I couldn't sleep at night, my wife would wake me up because I cried in my sleep." 

Leon started taking a capsule form of medical marijuana recently and said it was well worth the registration paperwork and long wait for approval.

"I hope it continues to help," he said. "It made me feel like I can get my life back again."

Leon can get a 70-day supply of medical marijuana at a local dispensary or have it delivered to his door. More changes could be coming to the medical marijuana law in Florida.

A lawsuit has been filed, saying patients should be allowed to smoke medical marijuana in the privacy of their own homes.

This BBSNews article was syndicated from News | WPLG, and written by News | WPLG. Read the original article here.

This BBSNews article originally appeared on News | WPLG.