“I’ve had patients die while waiting for medical marijuana,” says Dr. Justin Davis. “If people are terminally ill, why do they have to wait three months when their cancer can metastasize worse?”
He’s talking about a provision in the state’s Compassionate Use law: “Physicians may only order cannabis for a patient if he or she has treated them for the immediately preceding three months.”
The three-month period of treatment prior to ordering full-strength medical cannabis for a patient applies even when the patient is terminally ill. “That just doesn’t make sense,” Davis says.
Davis, a physician who owns and operates FMD.green in Gainesville, is licensed to recommend medical cannabis to patients. He had a kiosk at the Florida Cannabis Action Network’s Canna-Wellness Challenge, held in Melbourne on Nov. 19.
Advocating for recreational use
Some of those attending the event want to expand Floridians’ access to marijuana, including for recreational use. Cathy Jordan was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), better known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” in 1986.
“We need to legalize cannabis in Florida,” she says during a face-to-face interview at the event. “If it were legal, doctors could study it more easily.”
In a prepared statement sent to Florida Food & Farm before the event, Jordan wrote, “I’ve outlived five support groups and four neurologists. The ones who are still alive all agree today that I should smoke cannabis.”
In an interview during the Canna-Wellness Challenge, Jodi James, executive director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network, noted, “Cathy was told in 1986 that she had a life expectancy of three to five years. We need to ensure that no person suffers needlessly, and that patients have access to the best treatment they can have.”
James has known, and worked with, Jordan on cannabis-related issues since 1997.
RN: Cannabis has big potential
Mary Goyak, a registered nurse with 20 years of experience, spoke at the Canna-Wellness Challenge.
She believes that the passage of Amendment 2, the “Medical Marijuana Amendment,” will have far-reaching benefits: “We have a botanical wonder that will change everything. It will be the biggest discovery ever for medical purposes.”
Arnold Diehl, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees of Floridians for Freedom, a marijuana-advocacy group, says Amendment 2 was a great step forward. “But many people still need help, such as low-income people.”
The Melbourne resident fears that low-income patients who might benefit from medical cannabis cannot afford to buy it, even if their doctor says it would help their condition.
“They’ll only get it if they can grow it in their garden. We need to make cannabis like tomatoes,” Diehl says.
Toward that end, Floridians for Freedom (FFF) has launched a petition drive to put another amendment to Florida’s Constitution on the 2018 ballot.
Alex Snitker, a field coordinator for FFF, said at the Canna-Wellness Challenge that his group, that day, collected “more than 500 signed petitions” for the amendment. Titled “Rights of Adults to Cannabis,” it would, according to the Constitutional Amendment Petition Form, allow “persons over twenty-one years of age to possess, use and cultivate marijuana” and give the state “the power to regulate its purchase and sale in the interest of health and safety.”
Using marijuana, whether for medical or recreational purposes, remains illegal under federal law. So letter carriers won’t be delivering it.
That’s not a problem, according to Tommy Sewell, the community outreach coordinator for Knox Medical in Winter Garden. One of six companies licensed to grow and dispense medical cannabis, Knox Medical sits on 33 acres adjacent to Knox Nursery.
“We’ve already bought a fleet of vans. We’ll take it to your house,” he says during a face-to-face interview.
Justin Davis, the Gainesville physician who is licensed to recommend cannabis, explains, “I want to improve my patients’ quality of life. Amendment 2 is a step in the right direction, but we still need people’s support and advocacy.”
He adds, “It’s cruel and unusual to withhold something from a patient that will benefit them.”