By Katie Atkins
Posted in the FLKeysNews December 30, 2016 4:29 PM
Qualifying patients in search of a prescription for medical marijuana may want to start a doctor-patient relationship sooner rather than later.
Three months is the minimum time a physician must have treated a patient in order to prescribe medical marijuana and it could be longer than 90 days before the Florida Department of Health releases rules on regulating dispensaries.
One Florida Keys physician said he’s been getting numerous phone calls and visits from patients.
State constitutional Amendment 2, which allows medical marijuana as a treatment for patients with specific diseases, passed on Nov. 8 with approval from 71 percent of Florida voters, far more than the 60 percent needed. It becomes effective on Jan. 3.
Key West physician John Norris III recently completed an eight-hour course that will qualify him to prescribe marijuana with low tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana. He is one of four Keys doctors who have completed the course.
According to the Department of Health website, Dr. Ian Rae and Dr. Bobbi Leben, both of Key Largo, have completed the course along with Dr. Sandra Schwemmer of Tavernier.
Norris said he’s not going to be “cool” when prescribing pot to patients.
“People seem to think they can get medical marijuana because they have glaucoma,” he said.
That may be true in other states, but glaucoma is not on the most recent list of qualifying conditions released by the Department of Health.
Cancer, epilepsy, chronic seizures and muscle spasms qualify a person for low-THC cannabis. A patient whose condition is terminal within one year can qualify for full-potency medical marijuana with certification from two physicians.
The physician places the order and the patient’s information into a registry with the Department of Health, after which the patient can contact one of the six licensed dispensing organizations and fill the order, according to the DOH website.
Six dispensaries have been approved to cultivate, process and dispense low-THC cannabis and medical cannabis, the closest of which is Modern Health Concepts in Miami.
Norris said the marijuana is delivered to the patient or patients can go to a dispensary to have their order filled.
“From what I’m told it’s all very professional. They’re delivering because we are far away from the closest dispensary, but if a patient wanted to drive up to get it they could,” he said.
Norris said he completed the eight-hour Florida Medical Association course to help five of his patients suffering from muscle spasms. He said he sees roughly 30 patients a day.
“This is for people who actually need it. I do not want to be the little head-shop doctor with bongs in my window,” Norris said.
Rules are still evolving from the Department of Health, he said.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219