Patients in Florida have been waiting years for the opportunity to use medical marijuana legally – and now delays in getting medical marijuana ID cards out is forcing them to wait even longer.
Since Amendment 2 was implemented earlier this year, after being voted into law last November, there have been double the number of applicants to the medical marijuana program.
Previously, only patients with seizure disorders or a terminal illness could get a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana – and only CBD was available. Amendment 2 not only opened access to full strength medical cannabis, but also significantly expanded the list of qualifying conditions, including allowing conditions of a “similar kind or class” as those designated.
While the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use estimates that it should only take 30 days to receive a patient ID card once the application is submitted, many patients are saying otherwise.
“I mailed my $75 payment on July 19, received an email stating that my card was on the way on Sept. 18, and I still have not received the card,” said Adam McWilliams, of Jacksonville, who takes medical marijuana for anxiety and pain.
McWIlliams’ story is not the only one of its kind. There are many in much the same situation – and while some are still hanging on and waiting for their cards, others have passed away from terminal illness before their card was ever mailed.
“When you get sick and you go to a doctor and they write up a prescription for you, you go right to the drug store and get your medicine,” said Ivan Field, CEO of Marijuana Doctor, a chain of clinics with five locations in South Florida. “Here, it’s just unacceptable. We had a patient die, a cancer patient, waiting for their medicine.”
Out of 170 patients surveyed by a Venice based cannabis clinic, 57 reported waiting for their medical marijuana ID card for 4-6 weeks; 54 patients reported waiting even longer, 6-8 weeks. Only 12 said that they got their card in under a month – as expected according to the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use – and the other 47 patients chose not to disclose an answer.
“We are doing everything we can right now to crank these cards out because we know there are patients in very difficult medical situations, and we do not want to be the bottleneck,” Bax said in an appearance before a Florida Senate committee Wednesday.
While there were expected delays during Hurricane Irma, this issue was going on before the hurricane was even predicted to come near the state. Over a month after the storm, things should be preparing to get on track. Luckily, steps have already been taken towards making this happen.
The state budget provided funding for the medical cannabis department to be able to hire 28 new employees – which will help with a major issue, which is understaffing. They will also be speeding things along by allowing the $75 application fee for card holders to be paid electronically, and digital transfers of ID photos.
Right now, most patient IDs are being received 40-50 days after the application is submitted – which, while not as bad as three months or more, is still far too long. This is especially true when compared to how quickly patients have access to other prescription medications. The state is working to correct the issue – but even their best-case scenario projection of a 30-day wait could be too long for some of the most ill patients.