If you’re a Florida resident and you think medical marijuana would help you, the next step is to find a qualified doctor who can evaluate you. Florida allows both Medical Doctors and Doctors of Osteopathy to recommend the use of cannabis. Remember, cannabis is still illegal under federal law, so doctors and osteopaths in Florida can only recommend, not prescribe its use. Florida has over 2500 medical practitioners who have received licenses to recommend marijuana and the state maintains a database. Internet searches will also lead you to qualified medical professionals. If you go that route, you can confirm that your chosen provider is properly licensed by using the database.
Florida law gives a list of conditions for which medical providers can recommend the use of medical marijuana. The complete list of enumerated conditions is found in section 381.986 of the Florida Statutes:
- Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (M.S.)
If your condition doesn’t fit into one of those categories, you may still be eligible for a recommendation; the law includes provisions for doctors and osteopaths to recommend the use for:
- Medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated
- A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification
- Chronic nonmalignant pain
Common examples of these latter, unenumerated conditions include migraine headaches, depression, fibromyalgia, and diabetes, but your medical practitioner can discuss whether marijuana would be an appropriate course of treatment for you for many different kinds of conditions. They can also recommend methods of ingestion and point you to trusted dispensaries.
Once you have found a top medical marijuana practitioner to recommend marijuana in Florida, you can arrange an appointment for both diagnosis and recommendation. The practitioner will either diagnose you or confirm an existing diagnosis, and discuss whether cannabis is an appropriate treatment, if they make a recommendation for you then you should also discuss details with them. They may have recommendations related to the type of cannabis that is best for your treatment and for methods of consumption. For example, someone with lung conditions may want alternatives to smoking marijuana, while someone with ulcerative colitis may want to avoid edibles.
In terms of costs, many Florida marijuana doctors charge around fifty dollars, but costs can be higher depending on the extent of the evaluation. You can also see if your insurance provider will cover all or part of the cost of your evaluation. Post evaluation, you will need to send a further application to the Florida Department of Health, along with a fee of seventy-five dollars
Once that application is approved, you will need to register with the Medical Marijuana Use Registry, run by the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (“OMMU”). The OMMU provides your Florida marijuana card which confirms that you are permitted to purchase medical marijuana.
There are a number of important deadlines you need to keep an eye on to maintain your eligibility to purchase medical marijuana. First, your recommendation for medical marijuana is valid for thirty weeks. After that, you will need to be re-evaluated by a doctor or osteopath. As of September 2020, remote appointments are permissible for re-evaluations in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but as a general matter, the re-evaluations must be done in person. And be sure to note that the initial evaluation must still be in person. Additionally, your medical marijuana identification card is valid for one year; after that you will have to re-register and renew it.
Once you have gotten your recommendation, registered with the OMMU, and received your identification card, you can purchase marijuana at one of Florida’s dispensaries. You should also consider what strain of cannabis is best for you. Strains will generally fall into one of three categories, sativa, indica, or hybrids. As a rule, sativas and sativa-heavy hybrids will give you a more uplifting effect, while indicas and indica-leaning hybrids will more relaxing, but as with most things, these are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. You should also consider the overall potency, that is how much tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) is in a particular strain, or whether it contains cannabidiol (“CBD”). THC is responsible for the more noticeable psychoactive effects of marijuana, while CBD, while psychoactive, is much subtler. But remember, the specific effects of a strain will vary even within these general categories and will vary with each person. And scientists are still learning about the effect of terpenes, or the aromatic compounds, on the impact of particular strains.
Different strains of marijuana are noted for their uses in treating different conditions. For example, websites can point to the best strains for treating migraines, while other strains, like Acapulco Gold, are noted for their pain relief and nausea treatment properties.
Ask your doctor or osteopath for advice on how to match particular strains of marijuana to your conditions, but also be sure to discuss with employees at dispensaries. While the dispensaries will usually not employ medical personnel, they usually have very knowledgeable employees who can speak very confidently about different products and can help you navigate the differences between strains or point you to overlooked products. They can also advise you on proper dosages or on combinations of treatments that might be even more effective. Get started on your medical marijuana doctor certification today!