In Florida, medical cannabis laws have been in place for the last couple of years and with the last election in November 2016 with the passage of Amendment 2, the ability to use medical cannabis for extended medical conditions became a reality for many patients. Or did it?

There is still much concern amongst certified physicians who are trying to help their patients with the use of medical cannabis whose hands are still tied due to some constraints beyond our control. Starting with the 90 day waiting period. Imagine having legitimate, serious, debilitating medical conditions that have absolutely failed standard medical therapies and being told when you see a highly qualified, board certified physician, that because of a law that essentially penalizes the many for the sins of the few, that you cannot help them for another 3 months. That is what Florida physicians are faced with and that is what Florida patients are faced with. Since the legislature could not agree about what at the end of the day turns out to be money, patients continue to suffer. When you’re not on the front lines, in the room with patients, face – to- face with the impact of their medical illnesses, its easy to push off these decisions. Now the Department of Health has to decide what the rules will be in implementing the newly passed medical cannabis laws. In the mean time patients continue to suffer, physicians have to watch patients suffer, and we wait to see what other barriers might be created between the physician-patient relationship. If anyone reads this then let me respectfully request consideration of these 3 simple concerns.

1. Please remove the 90 day wait period. It prevents patients from getting relief from their medical condition sooner rather than later. Many of these patients have suffered for years…its time to remove this barrier so that physicians can help their patients sooner rather than later. Maybe it will only become clear when someone involved in the legislative process has a family member who’s faced with this barrier, but I would hope that this can clearly be seen as a no brainer towards compassionate patient care. If as a physician, I do not have the information I need to make a decision, trust that I will do my due diligence for the sake of my patients safety and for the sake of protecting my medical license.

2. Please do not add more bureaucracy that would place physicians under needless scrutiny for making decisions for recommending medical cannabis when they have done so intelligently and based on sound medical judgement. First and foremost we need to protect our patients, we need to protect our children, but at the end of the day we need to trust that physicians are doing their best to care for their patients. For the physicians who are going to be unethical and break the law, they should be dealt with accordingly and I truly believe that those unethical behaviors will come to light. However, the vast majority of physicians are responsible, ethical, and hold sacred our calling and our medical licenses, and we need to not have our hands tied yet again out of fear by governing authorities who are not on the front lines, face to face with our patients.

3. The requirement for treatment plans with the University of Florida College of Pharmacy needs to be re-evaluated. My real work as a physician comes to a screeching halt when I am tasked with data entry into a system that is supposed to be used for checks and balances. While it takes me no time at all to enter my patient’s basic information into the states Compassionate Use Registry, data entry of treatment plans into the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, quite frankly, is a colossal waste of my time. That data should be able to be entered by other approved health professionals in my practice under a secure login system if you’re going to continue to require it. Better yet, get rid of this requirement. I get its the current law, so it will be done. But ask yourself, what is the real purpose of this step in the process? Research? I get the need for research. My scientific research has helped to add to the last 2 decades of knowledge in the medical cannabis field. But is what you’re doing ethical? Patients have no choice in the matter. As a physician I am being strong-armed into this requirement if I want to provide compassionate care for my patients. Patients are also being strong-armed into this agreement because if they want access to medical cannabis they are forced to agree to having their personal medical information inputted into this database. Shouldn’t a patients participation in research be voluntarily? I think the state needs to take a step back and re-valuate this. In the mean time I would appreciate focusing my time on saving lives than using a system that has no customer support, where no one can be reached and that creates yet another massive barrier to compassionate patient care.