RECIPROCITY and its importance in Florida

Miami, Florida, USA tropical downtown skyline.


Dr Barry Gordon

The Medical Cannabis program in Florida is growing at a very rapid rate, and currently is undergoing the rule making and implementation phase. Since the inception of the program in January 2017, Physicians who practice in the space have been “driving through the fog without headlights” in the famous words of Cannabis advocate Gary Stein. The Rick Scott Administration was clearly obstructionist in nature, and was non supportive of the educational and outreach efforts of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU). With Governor DeSantis’ election along with the election of Cannabis Advocate Nikki Fried to lead the Agriculture Department, a new attitude has emerged. Many issues not earlier addressed by the Legislature are now being discussed, including the issue of Patient Reciprocity from state to state. This is special impact in Florida, The Sunshine State, due to both the impact of tourism and seasonal residency. This is an issue we must get right, and it should be easy….if we focus on what’s really important and critical to every Medical Cannabis issue, PATIENT ACCESS. The ease of patient access should always be at the forefront of any discussion when it comes to medicine.

With the vast array of both Medical programs, with their myriad of medical conditions allowed, as well as those States that already allow Legal Adult Responsible Use, many users of cannabis arrive in Florida with experience with cannabis. Those with medical conditions being treated with cannabis deserve safe and legal access to it, WITHOUT FURTHER RESTRICTIONS. These patients have already been seen by their doctor, and have had the appropriate teaching and instruction on the safe and effective use of their cannabis products. To ask them to do things such as produce medical records, and/or see another Medical Cannabis provider here in Florida for another recommendation is only further obstructionism. Much better is to respect these patients, and welcome them to Florida and both it’s sunshine and high quality medical cannabis products. Clearly it is both to the benefit of the patients and the State of Florida for these patients to be able to easily access the program. The less hoops to jump through, the better for all.

There are many reasons to make this process as seamless as possible for either visitors or seasonal residents. Cannabis through the dispensary system assures these patients what they need while they are here in Florida. Medical Cannabis is all about the safety of the product, with lab testing, strain specificity, and the appropriate ratio of THC and CBD assured. Medical cannabis also contains the other minor cannabinoids as well as the terpenes, flavinoids and plant esters that patients desire and deserve. Of course, also critical is the ability to deliver the medicine through all the various routes, which are only available through the medical program. These routes include the topicals, sublingual tinctures, edibles (still pills here in Florida), as well as the newer concentrates and distillate products. It is not practical nor moral to withhold these products from patients, no matter their hometown of origin. No one should want these patients even considering going to the black market, or to have the anxiety or concern about coming to Florida if they are a Medical cannabis patient. Our tourism industry depends on an appropriate towards visitors, and we need to promote the enjoyment of our state for everyone. This can actually turn into a positive for tourism and the retirement communities, if it is advertised as such. Of course, the state may choose to monetize the process with an ‘tourist fee” or charge, and this should be made as low as possible to once again not impede access. Medical Cannabis programs are growing everywhere, and will only continue to grow. Florida leaders need to recognize this, and embrace the fact that we should be inclusive and lead the way.

Other states have accepted reciprocity, including Nevada and Michigan, as well as Maine who requires some paperwork, so we will join the early wave of recognition. Let’s get ahead of the curve on this issue, and leave obstructionism behind. Medical cannabis is safe, let’s not put roadblocks in the way of access to all who need it.