Pubdate: Sun, 01 Jan 2017
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2017 The Tribune Co.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Dr. Joseph Dorn has had a unique vantage
point when it comes to the burgeoning medical marijuana industry in

Dorn was the medical director of Surterra Therapeutics, which is one
of the six dispensing organizations licensed to grow and distribute
medical cannabis in the state. He resigned from that position two
months ago and has opened a medical marijuana treatment center as
Amendment 2 takes effect on Tuesday.

The constitutional amendment, which was approved by 71 percent of
Florida voters, allows higher-strength marijuana to be used for a
wider list of medical ailments. However, the true measure of what the
amendment means won't be immediately seen until a new set of rules are
adopted and implemented by the Florida Legislature and the Department
of Health.

"I think the expectations for most people is it is going to be a
free-for-all, and all people have to do is get their cards to receive
it," Dorn said. "I think there is going to be a lot of chaos initially
because there is still a lot of work to be done."

The upcoming year will be important, considering the health and
economic factors at play.

A study recently released by Arcview Market Research and New Frontier
Data showed that Florida is on track to log more than $1 billion in
medical marijuana sales by 2019 and surpass Colorado within four years.

It allows the use of medical marijuana for people with debilitating
medical conditions as determined by a licensed physician. In 2014, the
Florida Legislature approved the use of low-THC and non-smoked
cannabis for patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, chronic
seizures and chronic muscle spasms. It was expanded last year to
include patients with terminal conditions under the Right to Try Act
and allowed them to use higher strains.

Patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress
disorder, ALS, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple
sclerosis, or other similar conditions will now be covered.

Patients must be under the care of a licensed physician who has
completed the required eight-hour course and examination for at least
three months. Dorn, who is one of three approved physicians in
Tallahassee, said he is nearly booked with appointments for the
upcoming week.

According to the Department of Health, 340 physicians are registered.
Christian Bax, who runs the Office of Compassionate Use, which is
tasked with regulating medical marijuana, said last month he expects
for there to be a significant increase in registered physicians during
the first quarter of the year.

There are currently 1,495 patients in the state registry but that
number will steadily increase.

Five of the seven licensed organizations have received authorization
to distribute medical marijuana. CHT Medical, which was approved two
weeks ago, will begin in-home delivery this month. At least one more
additional license will likely be granted after a recent settlement
between the Department of Health and two Southwest Florida nurseries.

Once the patient registry reaches 250,000, an additional three
licenses will be made available, one of which will be designated for
black farmers.

Dispensaries are open in Tallahassee, Clearwater and Tampa but
according to the Florida League of Cities, 55 cities statewide have
zoning moratoriums in place either banning or restricting
dispensaries. Eight additional cities are considering

Most moratoriums are temporary as cities and counties await new
regulations from Amendment 2's passage.

Five more legislative committee weeks are scheduled before the start
of the Florida Legislature on March 7. The Florida Senate's Health
Policy committee held a workshop in early December to hear concerns
from all parties. The House's Health Policy committee has not met yet.

The amendment allows the Department of Health and Legislature to come
up with the regulatory framework.

Those who opposed the amendment are urging lawmakers to uphold the
tenants of the amendment, especially when it comes to putting laws in
place to ban pot candy.

Whatever path the Legislature and Department of Health decide to go
down, only one thing is certain -- the clock is ticking to get it done.
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MAP posted-by: Matt