Lighting Up Florida’s Medical Marijuana People: The Medics Series, Part 6

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AUTHOR: Heather Allman

Nationally, on October 17, 2018, Forbes observed, “Congress is out of step with the American people and the states on cannabis,Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) writes in the eight-page document addressed to House Democratic Leadership: “We have an opportunity to correct course if Democrats win big in November. There’s no question: cannabis prohibition will end. Democrats should lead the way.”


Fantastic news, right? That remains to be seen. Considering our current armed service use restrictions and the lack of legal tax and employment considerations for marijuana use, like the nation, Florida is not quite “there” yet.


The informed patients, cannabis industry employees, and clinicians find it equally difficult to keep updated on Florida’s latest medical marijuana program news and changes.


With yet another newly-released set of smokable OMMU guidelines completed in July, 2019, Rissman shares the overall continued program exasperation within the patient population, mirroing the perspective of most physicians and patients in Florida as she excitedly recognizes the juggernaut that is medical marijuana:


“People do not know what’s going on. Honestly, myself included sometimes. It’s just so much to keep up with. We are rolling forward quickly and so much is happening so fast that we can’t keep up. People are excited about cannabis as medication, but they don’t know anything about it. No one wants to spend money on something they don’t understand.”


In light of all this state cannabis information overload, what are some of the reasons a patient ultimately chooses a qualified personal cannabis physician?


While my choice was initially based on the unsolicited referral of my personal physician, Dr. Mark M. Ryan, I remain with my cannabis physician Dr. Michelle Beasley directly because of our mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship: if I do well, get healthier, stop opioids, and improve my quality of life, then she grows in her professional field of cannabis medicine.


Patient and physician are on this rocky journey together, for better or worse.


Like others, Dr. Beasley is forced by default to expand her knowledge base through scientific facts that warrant closer inspection and through accessible existing research, with few current cannabis case studies. Most reliable medical cannabis research filters into the U.S. through international sources, namely Israel.


Factual, reproducible, longterm personal cannabis U.S. case studies are virtually nonexistent.


So each physician’s unique observation of a cannabis patient’s correlating physical, mental and psychological improvements using cannabis medicine is groundbreaking and key to the program’s success.


Bernadine Grooms, a Veteran and active Florida patient, chose her cannabis physician based upon her existing rapport and trusting relationship with her current neurologist, Dr. David Bear.


Dr. Bear ultimately became a Florida state CME physician solely based on his firsthand observaions of the benefits of medical cannabis in his own neurology patients at Emerald Coast Neorology in Pensacola, Florida.


Conversely, some patients choose solely based on the physician’s location, as is the case with the conveniently located physician team at DocMJ, housed inside Trulieve in Pensacola. Trulieve is the state’s largest licensed Florida cannabis product dispensary.


Often the patient’s decision is based not only on the clinic’s convenient location and their overall reputation, but also necessary is the clinic’s ability to deliver what many patients need to feel comfortable using cannabis as medicine: hefty patient experience and outstanding medicial credentials.


Most importantly, as participants in the state’s cannabis-collective experience, all patients ultimately choose a physician based on the ability of a mere 2,300 certified licensed doctors to see the sheer number of Florida patients, now past 300,000 active cardholders.


Patients carefully consider a choice of cannabis physician based on their personal past health, their qualifying condition, and their current health needs: essentially, patients decide which physician can serve that patient’s needs by adding cannabis as a therapeutic medication


The patient’s answer to this question is the deciding factor.


Each patient and physician boldly proceed to maneuver Florida’s present physician and patient compliance system together, not to mention the issues:

  • state vs. federal legality conflicts
  • ongoing required physician training for updated state licensure
  • yearly patient qualification
  • subsequent yearly patent ID card renewal to remain active


In the foreseeable future, the patient and physician must be able to maintain and nurture this symbiotic health-unit relationship based on trust. They jointly forge boldly ahead emblazoned with mutual respect, confidence, and like-mindedness when marching directly onto the field of state cannabis medicine.


Even with all the past federal missteps and current obstacles, these determined medics want to help keep patients healthier and safer with natural, plant-derived medicine, rather than the more synthetic pharmaceutical alternatives that can prove to be even riskier therapies with highly addictive propensities.


These physicians currently have the additional ambitious goal of treating as many patients as possible using cannabis medicine, quickly becoming a preferred medicine choice for pain management in Florida.


The goal of these dedicated cannabis physicians also includes adding qualifying conditions to save valuable physician hours currently spent competing state-mandated “same condition” paperwork.


If more qualifying conditions are added, each cannabis physician can see a larger share of those 300,000 Florida patients in clinic, rather than just on paper.


Cannabis is not a “gateway” drug, according to the ASA and the DEA’s own statements cited in the August 2016 U.S. Federal Register.


In my opinion, the physician’s altruistic oath to “first do no harm” is the principle that I believe provides the most guidance for cannabis physicians.


This oath to help not harm, along with a multitude of scientific and sociological reasons, garners the cannabis medicine field of study unique and unchartered territory. Each physician forges their way precariously through the federal obstacle course and the state maze, taking along the willing patient.


Both are bravely hoping that they will be allowed to continue legally gathering noteworthy, usable knowledge about the amazing cannabis plant and its health effects.


This exchange of energy and education will help patients like myself feel more confident about using a natural alternative.


Because marijuana does not act as a “gateway” substance, a patient’s necessity for chemical pharmaceuticals should decrease organically.


That’s where hope walks back into the patient-physician symbiotic picture.


Florida is currently entertaining its own successful 2020 push for adult recreational legalization and medical expansion or overhaul.


But the facts in Eric Gandelione’s revelatory article for Cannabis Business Executive speak for themselves:


  • “Over a quarter of medical users reported that they were using more often than before adult-use legalization


  • Edibles and topicals emerged as the two categories users indicated that were consuming more of post-legalization


  • Half of medical users were still using their medical card for cannabis purchases, meaning half were no longer using their card


  • Usage of over-the-counter pain relievers and sleep aids, as well as prescription pain relievers and anti-anxiety medications dropped”


Any decrease in pharmaceutical use and abuse in Florida’s diverse population is progress toward a healthier future and hope.


Looking ahead, these state-certified CME medical marijuana physicians want to continue their professional growth, knowledge base, and cannabis patient care.


Florida’s physicians strongly desire to keep medical marijuana’s forward momentum, even though the troops need a crystal clear playbook, or at least some standardized rules of engagement. Perhaps it’s time for a more straightforward game altogether.


U.S. President Ronald Reagan astutely admonishes to: “Live each day with enthusiasm, optimism, and hope. If you do, I am convinced that your contribution to this one experiment we called America will be profound.”


When I asked patient Zari Rissman what has learned the most during her two year journey with her physician as a cannabis patient, she boldly responds with one resounding word: “hope.” As a Floridian personally entrenched deep in our state medical marijuana minefield, Rissman is not alone in her eager anticipation and optimistic aspirations.


Hope on both the state and federal level indeed appears to be in sight.


For Florida, edibles may be bigger than initially anticipated with Wall Street Journal’s July 9, 2019 recent announcement that Cannabis Startup Surterra Wellness Appoints Former Kellogg CFO as Finance Chief. Further noting: “Surterra has assembled a stable of senior executives from big international companies.”


In our current U.S. cannabis climate, willing participants maneuver carefully in accordance with the medical marijuana rules of engagement for each respective state.


A confusing amalgam of individual state programs and a pattern of national litigation and reversals litters the U.S. landscape.


A distinct lack of cohesive thought, policy or research on the complex issue of medical marijuana is present and reminiscent of the narrator’s opening exposition in Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s novel Good Omens:


The U.S. is also deeply involved in an ineffable game, a marijuana game highly comparable to: “being involved in an obscure and complex version of Poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”


In order to make our state program a success, Florida must start the slow process of “turning on the lights” in the pitch-dark cannabis closet.


The state must rework the program’s existing solid frame pieces with a regulatory concensus on medical marijuana’s value as a therapeutic substance, not an illicit one. But also needed are standard operating procedures at the national level, along with accompanying tax and banking frameworks.


Consensus is a monumentally difficult task due to the existing patchwork of state and federal law.

But in this battle for cannabis rights, it is imperative that organizations and legislators and administrators work together with The Medics of this marijuana movement and The Front Lines of patients.


Leading the charge is Florida’s medical marijuana team:


Meanwhile, the Rear Battalion of lawmakers and legislators are starting to tackle the daily state barrage of upheavals, as well as the current federal medical marijuana maze.


VIEWPOINT: State Medical Cannabis Markets Vary with Saturation Levels


National help is slowly trickling in aid for this noble, natural cause, like this exciting July 11, 2019 development to “Create a Research Platform to Benefit Cannabis Patients” as reported by Reenal Doshi:


“Today, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the leading advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic use and research, and Aurelius Data, Inc.(AD), the premier patient perception big data company, and announced a bold new partnership to gather and analyze millions of data points from cannabis patients.


Combining existing knowledge with chemical product analysis, patient perceived effectiveness, efficacy, form factor, and mechanisms of action (methods of administration) will yield a much-needed educational resource for patients and caregivers, providers, and the industry.”


The MMTC FL system is comprised of a growing number of physicians who have banded together in their cannabis clinics in order to (1) keep patient prices comparable and equal, while (2) providing some standardization in the state’s medical marijuana battleground.


This vital MMTC FL widespread medic participation discourages direct competition between cannabis physicians and encourages evenly distributed patient care and access.

As for the state program, in the past Florida started with a 90-day waiting stint to be completed before a patient could obtain cannabis medication, after being seen in person by a certified physician.


The state also originally included outdated and vastly unpopular regulations such as the litigious “no smokable flower” rule, with no exceptions granted.


Luckily, another prohibitive rule that has fallen by the wayside from the original Florida Amendment 2 language are the restrictive stipulations:


  1. That a patient had already been diagnosed with one of the state’s Top 10 Qualifying Conditions and possessed two sets of accompanying verifiable medical records that supported/recorded the patient’s specific Qualifying Condition diagnosis; and


  1. That a patient had exhausted all other “recognized traditional treatment options available for condition” before turning to medical cannabis as a therapeutic medicinal treatment.


However awkward and dysfunctional, Florida’s current medical cannabis program advanced and operated statewide uneventfully at its 2014 inception and through its massive 2016 overhaul.


The most recent June 28, 2019 update to the state OMMU Patient Registry is the first official move to fully incorporate smokable flower as another medical cannabis delivery route option for patients and to banish the “no smoking” provision once and for all.


Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Nikki Fried, dedicated to the Florida cannabis charge sent a personalized email to subscribed constituents on April 2, 2019:


“In the short time since I was sworn in as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, we have already achieved the critical goal of ensuring that ALL forms of medical cannabis are available to the patients who desperately need it. Removing barriers to smokable medical marijuana is a massive step forward in the fight to expand patient access to life-saving treatments.


Even though 72% of Floridians approved medical marijuana in 2016, the previous administration did everything they could to block the implementation of the amendment. One particularly problematic aspect was the legislature’s complete ban on smokable medical marijuana.


With this ban overturned, patients across Florida now have access to the entire spectrum of this important medicine.


We will continue to fight to protect your right to medical marijuana.”


In national news,The Washington Post headlines Commissioner Fried’s ambitions for the state of Florida and its newly overhauled Hemp program in Florida.


As for the state’s already growing Medical Marijuana program?

Looking to the future, Florida is primed and ready for Edibles in the state medical marijuana market. The state is still finalizing state guidelines and food establishment standards, and applications are currently closed to newcomers.


However, the Florida state OMMU Registry will aggressively catch up as they update in the coming months to incorporate the impending statewide Edible delivery route.


Inhale deeply and stay tuned! The state updates to Florida’s medical marijuana rules will not be identical after a 90-day waiting period:


Beyond Florida, further resources are available throughout ALL areas of the cannabis industry spectrum. An online source exists for each one of the many shades of grey marijuana matter splattered all over the United States.


To get more involved in Lighting Up Florida’s Medical Marijuana, here’s a comprehensive list of 20 credible online resources:


  1. CannaInsider- Glossary: Marijuana/Cannabis Terms


  1. WeedMaps- Learn: a Cannabis Education


  1. org- A Brief History of Cannabis in the United States


  1. org- 33 Legal Medical Marijuana States and D.C.- Laws, Fees, and Possession Limits


  1. O’Shaughnessy’s Online


  1. WeedMaps- Beginner’s Guide to Legal Medical Marijuana in Florida


  1. S. Pain Foundation- Federal Report on Pain Managment – What’s next?


  1. Download:

Statement from FDA on Cannabis, April 2, 2019


  1. Download:

The State of Legal Cannabis Markets, BDS Analytics revised 7th Edition Executive Summary


  1. Download:

WHO Announces Scientific Consensus on Medical Cannabis


  1. Download:

Cannabis Misinformation: What Does the DEA say about Marijuana? – Citations from U.S. Federal Register


  1. Miami New Times- Guns and Pot Sometimes Don’t Mix in Florida


  1. Regina Leader Post- Cannabis-using Seniors: Quality of Life is Improved


  1. Green-Flower- Cannabis Fundamentals Certificate Program: Success in cannabis begins HERE


  1. Cannabis Business Executive- Building With, Not From, Medical Markets


  1. Get the Dose- Researchers have found that CBD has antibiotic properties


  1. Consumer Reports- Can CBD Treat Opioid Addiction?


  1. Green Entrepreneur- Move Aside, CBD: New Data Finds THC Is the Real Medicine in Medical Marijuana


  1. USDA- Legalized THC and No One Noticed


  1. Leafly- 2020 Presidential Candidates Stand on Cannabis


Contact Heather

Heather Allman
B.A.Ed., M.A, University of West Florida
Non-Profit Founder: Allman Education,
Location: Pensacola, Florida, USA
Phone: 1-850-287-2509
Twitter and Instagram: @allmaneducation
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]
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Heather Allman

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