On November 8, 2016, 71% of Floridians voted to legalize medical cannabis. Amendment 2, which authorized the use of medical cannabis for Floridians with debilitating diseases, was signed into law by former Governor Rick Scott.
More than two years after the passage of Amendment 2, patients’ still do not have access to medical cannabis dispensaries in Collier County.
On December 11, 2018, the Collier County Commissioners voted against allowing medical dispensaries in Collier County, with two hold outs from Commissioners Donna Fiala and Penny Taylor.
Barely a month in office, Governor Ron DeSantis weighed in on the issue of medical cannabis. He made it clear to the legislators that he will no longer allow the “state to drag its feet” on giving the people what they voted for – which is access to medical cannabis at the discretion of their physicians. He also wants to repeal the ban on “smokable cannabis” available to patients who are qualified.
Newly-elected Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried also announced the creation of a new position for “Director of Cannabis” under the State’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Department. According to Fried, “The State needs to increase the number of licensed medical cannabis growers to create a more open market, greater competition, more affordable prices and a greater level of access for Florida patients.”
Dr. Clint Potter, of Advanced Individualized Medicine (AIM) in Naples has seen first-hand the difference medical cannabis treatment can make in the lives of his patients. According to Dr. Potter, just because you are an MD doesn’t mean that you can recommend medical cannabis. You have to obtain a special license from the State of Florida in order to recommend medical cannabis therapy. Many of his patients with qualifying conditions are well over age 60 and many are in their 70s and 80s. A complete list of the qualifying conditions may be obtained from the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, which includes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), epilepsy, cancer, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Potter would prefer that his 80-year-old patients not drive to a Lee County dispensary to check out the available products. For the initial treatment it is important for his patients to visit a dispensary, speak with the pharmacist, and check out firsthand the blend of products available to them. Patients can also call the dispensaries, discuss options, and have the products delivered to their homes.
In Florida, the products come in gels, tinctures, lotion, oils, rectal suppositories and vaporizing pens in different sizes and concentrations. According to Dr. Potter, it is the high level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that makes it medical and causes the “high” associated with cannabis.
With strong support from the Governor’s office, will patients in Florida finally be allowed to consume medical cannabis in whatever format that is approved by their physicians as long as it purchased in a state licensed dispensary? Will this translate to easier access to medical pot in Collier County?