Nearly 250,000 Florida residents actively use medical marijuana to treat their symptoms. As the number of users grow, so does the need to inform the public about current cannabis laws and what has changed in recent years. Florida A&M University gathered local experts to share the dos and don’ts of cannibas at the Brownsville community center in early July.
Brenda Key, a Pensacola resident, attended the forum to see whether cannabis could help ease the pain she has from multiple sclerosis.
“I’m here to find out how this medical marijuana works,” she said. “I see here on the information sheet I’m a qualified person. I’m just tired of hurting.”
Key was among nearly 70 people who came to the FAMU-sponsored panel on medical marijuana. The audience asked questions like, “Do I qualify?” and “What if law enforcement sees I have my medicine in the car?”
One of the panelists answering those questions was Dr. Michelle Beasley. Beasley is the co-director of Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida and was one of the first doctors in Pensacola to be cannabis certified. She finds one of the biggest misconceptions among her patients is thinking they can’t qualify beyond the ten conditions outlined in the Florida constitution.
“Crone’s disease is one of the ten so Ulcerative colitis is similar in treatment and symptoms to Crone’s disease,” Beasley said. “So, a physician can send extra paperwork to the state of Florida telling the state why I think the symptoms are similar and why I think cannibas would help it.”
And it’s not just the range of illnesses that can be treated with cannabis that has expanded. Dr. Beasley says there are more treatment options available than ever, including higher amounts of THC. Flour cannibas also became legal as of this March.
During the panel, Beasley also touched on the legal complications of medical marijuana, “It’s still federally illegal so we have to be respectful of federal property so (that means no cannibas at) navy bases, federal court houses, national parks.”
Chief Deputy Chip Simmons with the Escambia Sheriff’s Office was also on the panel. He says cannabis users who have their identification card and properly packaged marijuana don’t need to worry about law enforcement being hostile or aggressive simply because they have a medical form of marijuana.
“One point I wanted to get across during the forum is that law enforcement is not out there targeting people who have a marijuana card,” Simmons said.
Simmons advises anyone who gets pulled over for a traffic violation — and also has marijuana in the car — to be up front with the officers. He says let them know it’s there, where it is, and hand over the identification card so they can confirm it’s all legal.
Following the law also means only getting medical marijuana products from a dispensary. Dr. Beasley says the average monthly price range for medical marijuana use for her patients is $50-$100. And because it’s federally illegal, insurance companies won’t cover the cost. But for those who want to minimize side effects of opioids, it could be the best option.
Beasley says she’s seen big changes in her patients who suffered from anxiety, depression, and mood swings, “My favorite moment is when someone comes in and says I got the person I married back.”
But with every drug, comes possible side effects. Medical marijuana users could experience drowsiness or paranoia.
At the end of the FAM-U panel, Brenda Key said she felt hopeful and was ready to see how medical marijuana might be able to improve her quality of life.
“I thought it was great,” she said. “I got some answers to my questions I was wondering about, just need to get my money together and go for it.”
To learn more about medical marijuana laws and facts visit knowthefactsmmj.com.