When I first moved to San Francisco from Saint Petersburg, Florida, back in 2002, California was one of the few states that had medical cannabis laws. I was grateful and felt lucky to get a doctor’s recommendation for my anxiety and to have access to dispensaries within a few months of moving there.
Now, a total of 33 states have approved comprehensive medical cannabis programs, and nine states, and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over 21.
Whwn I was younger, there are many people in Florida that could benefit from the use of cannabis, but, as a resident, I could not imagine its use would ever be legal. I was definitely proven wrong as Florida became of the states with a comprehensive medical cannabis program. To my delight, even my hometown, St. Pete’s, allowed dispensaries.
One of my old best friends recently agreed to sit down with me to talk. We visited two Florida dispensaries together, Cureleaf and Surterra Wellness, and I was curious to see the industry through the eyes of a newbie.
Q: How was the experience?
A: The experience was pretty painless. The worst part was waiting for the email with my medical marijuana card.
Q: Was it difficult to get a doctor's recommendation to use cannabis?
A: This was interesting. No, it was not at all difficult to get doctor’s recommendation. However, I had done a little research online prior to cold calling the first doctor. There were conditions on the list that I had, so I figured I would okay, wherever I called. But, the first place said I actually was NOT eligible for recommendation. Weird - but before I could say anything else they said, "it’s ok, we can give you the number to another place that is a bit more 'flexible.'” I called the other number, and was able to get in and approved right away.
Q: Was it difficult to gain entry into a dispensary?
A: It was not difficult to get into the dispensaries. For selection, though, each dispensary operates their own way, and it seems like each one carries only a few specific strains and blends. They are not able to sell cannabis flowers yet, so they it’s all cartridges and vape pens, along with tinctures, patches, topical, and some edibles. And, across all products, there is a limited selection of strains.
Q: Were the budtenders helpful?
A: The budtenders were different at the two places I visited. The first budtender, at Cureleaf, told me what they had in stock, put together my requests, and I was on my way. The second place, Surterra, was a little more evolved and involved. They had their own blends with names like "soothe" and "calm,” mostly sold as disposable vape pens. They also carry four Florida Grown strains, all hybrids --- I purchased the Arts OG. The budtender at Surterra sat me down and went through an introduction before looking at any products. They definitely all made it seem approachable and unintimidating. This was very helpful to me as a first time visitor.
If you want to visit a dispensary in Florida, you may find it hard. Under Florida’s current program, medical marijuana can only be given to a patient if the physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient and if the person is a resident of the state. Once the doctor signs off, patients send their applications and a check for $75 to the Florida Department of Health, which eventually sends a cannabis patient identification card. Once this card is issues, the patient is placed on the Compassionate Use Registry, and can buy medical marijuana at the over 80 state-approved dispensaries.
Under the Florida regulations, smoking the medication is not allowed; instead, the product must be sold and consumed as edibles or by vaping, and can be consumed as an oil, spray, or pill. However, on May 25, 2018, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the ban on smoking is unconstitutional. This ruling is now under appeal, and, the recently elected Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, has expressed that he wants to eliminate Florida’s ban on smoking medical marijuana, as well.
I hope this blog helps you to succeed in getting the weed you need. One state at a time, safe access opens up and continues to grow.