Is it too easy to get medical marijuana? The shared concerns from professionals, former addicts

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will not be on the November ballot for president, but he’s suggesting the decision whether to make marijuana legal in Florida will be.


DeSantis has been outspoken about the measure, even questioning whether some of the estimated 850,000 medical marijuana users in Florida have the card as a “pretext” for recreational use.

Right now, medical marijuana is a $1 billion industry in Florida -- that’s the third highest in the nation.

Channel 9 anchor Kirstin Delgado delved into the issue, looking into the process of getting a medical marijuana card and found that some people fear there’s a way for the system to be exploited.

Others have seen incredible results, like Sanford nurse Meg Harrell.

Read: Orange County Shuts down Medical Marijuana facility from building between two high schools

“I’ve seen it be extremely beneficial,” she said.

Harrell has worked with cancer patients using medical marijuana.

“THC works specifically on the neurons on the brain that release the chemical dopamine,” she said. “It’ll have positive side effects against chronic pain, nausea or vomiting.”

Patients wanting a card have to see a so-called medical marijuana doctor. That’s a physician that’s licensed by the state.

“You will have to pay about $200,” Harrell said. “It varies each office.”

She also said doctors in that industry have an easier time collecting fees for their services.

“It’s so much more profitable than going through insurance or trying to run an office or work at the hospital,” Harrell said.

Prices vary by clinic, but on the high end, you’ll pay $200 for your first doctor’s appointment. If you’re eligible, you’ll pay the state a $75 application fee followed by another $75 fee to renew with the state annually.

Read: DeLand leaders change rules to allow medical marijuana facilities

Then the state requires card holders be evaluated by their provider about every seven months at about $99.

“It’s a win-win situation for everybody involved.” said the Rev. Joe Cordovano, of Fresh Start Ministries.

He said he is a former addict who used marijuana, and he’s concerned that doctors are incentivized to prescribe cards. Especially since, according to the Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida, if you don’t qualify for a card, you don’t pay for the appointment.

“Everybody’s going to make a buck, including the state.” Cordovano said. “The opportunity to not be as strict as it should be is there.”

He said he now works to get others sober; but over the years, he’s noticed that addicts going into recovery for other drugs also have medical marijuana cards.

Right now, there are more than 2,500 medical marijuana doctors in the state and 22 medical marijuana operators, with 22 new applications for medical marijuana operators now under consideration.

That increase is a concern for Cordovano -- especially since doctors prescribe the card but recommend a dosage.

“It’s very different from getting prescribed the actual drug,” Harrell said. “It’s essentially giving you permission to try it -- giving you the authority, the autonomy to finally try it for yourself and see if it works.”

The state does impose limits for use, and doctors can request exceptions.

Harrell said she sees it as “the same as some types of narcotics.”

“When they’re used properly, they’re fantastic,” she said. “When they’re abused, then we have some detrimental side effects in the body.”

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