The expansion of who can use medical marijuana, known as Amendment 2, takes effect Tuesday. The constitutional amendment was approved by close to three quarters of Florida voters.
In 2014, the Florida Legislature approved the use of low-THC and non-smoked cannabis for those suffering from cancer, epilepsy and seizures. This latest amendment will cover patients with close to a dozen debilitating diseases.
Amendment 2 will increase the number of debilitating diseases for which medical marijuana can be recommended. Now included are HIV/AIDS, Parkinsons, ALS and PTSD, to name a few.
For physicians like Dr. Harold Laski at Southside Medical Center, Amendment 2 has been a long time coming.
“I’ve got several patients that are on the medical marijuana at this moment and are very happy with it,” said Laski.
Dr. Laski is one of about a dozen physicians licensed to recommend medical marijuana in Florida.
Laski said the expansion of who can use medical marijuana won’t happen right away.
Patients and physicians will be bound by the current law while the Florida Department of Health develops new rules. That will take at least 6 months.
“We’ve got nine months maximum where it will actually take effect,” Laski said.
For those concerned, that’s why there are safeguards in place that limit who can grow, Laski said. Right now only three growers have been approved.
The problem is medical marijuana is still a Schedule 1 medication, which restricts research on the drug’s benefits, and in turn the number of physicians who are behind it, which Laski estimates is now more than half of doctors, Laski said.
“I really feel that if we had bonafied research that everyone felt comfortable with, we’d see a lot more that would be proponents rather than opponents,” said Laski.
As far as any negative side effects from medical marijuana, Laski believes the positive, like reducing seizures, greatly outweigh any negatives. Studies are split on whether it can be a gateway drug.