Cannabis business integrity is extremely important in Florida in order to separate perceptions of legal medical marijuana from the illegal black market. In order for medical patients in Florida to accept that there are true benefits to the use of medical cannabis, the industry needs to be held at a higher standard. Unfortunately, the young industry may have some culprits that are taking advantage of residents’ ignorance while the rules surrounding medical cannabis are still unfolding.
Some of the challenges that potential medical marijuana patients are facing is a misunderstanding of the fees, how to pay them, or where they can purchase Florida medical cannabis once they have received their compassionate use cards. The entire framework of medical marijuana in Florida is still in the process of being built but it is important that the legal cannabis business integrity stays intact during this building process. Medical marijuana treatment centers are still going up, the new course for doctor’s to take to become certified is not available yet and the Office of Medical Marijuana Use is backed up getting compassionate use cards distributed. Have you researched medical marijuana in Florida thoroughly enough?
Maybe you’ve seen them on Lincoln Road and Biscayne Boulevard, or did a double-take the first time you drove past one on Old Dixie Highway.
With names like 420 Miami Doctor and Doc MJ, clinics that specialize in medical marijuana diagnoses are opening in strip malls and office buildings across South Florida. More than a half-dozen chains — including one where patients can also receive an INS physical — have popped up from Kendall to Pompano Beach.
Arriving as Florida’s health department and board of medicine continue to work out the ground rules of the industry, cannabis clinics are filling a void in an unsettled market. They come touting doctors and staff who specialize in a convoluted field at a time when thousands are trying to find out if they qualify.
But in a region that only a few years ago was the pill mill capital of the world, the optics aren’t great. Already there are stories about predatory offices and clinics that act more like certification factories than medical practitioners, leading the doctors and clinic owners themselves to urge patients to research the options before they visit.
There have been a lot of nefarious practices that have popped up. We call them parasites.
“There are good actors and bad actors. Unfortunately, with the recent forward progress [of medical marijuana] in the state, there have been a lot of nefarious practices that have popped up. We call them parasites,” said Pat DeLuca, executive director of Compassionate Cannabis Clinic near Sarasota. “And there are people operating within the space that don’t deserve to be.”
Since Florida first authorized an extremely limited medical marijuana system in 2014, more than 30,000 patients have seen doctors from an array of fields in order to become certified. But it wasn’t until voters amended the constitution in November to expand cannabis access — leading to conservative estimates of a statewide patient base of 500,000 — that clinics truly began to open in numbers.
While any licensed physician can become trained and qualified to recommend marijuana, these clinics offer a specialized service. Often, their physicians review a patient’s existing medical records to determine whether the client qualifies for medical marijuana treatment under Florida law. Typically, the experience is quick and costs between $200 and $300 inclusive of the certification and follow-up visits.
Cannabis products are not offered or sold by the clinics.
Modern Health Concepts owns South Florida’s only legal medical marijuana grow operation. The company recently allowed a Miami Herald photographer and reporter to the tour the facility.