Over the summer, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a law that would expand the state's medical marijuana program. But now some are worried that an aspect of that law will actually be used to punish those who support the industry.
As part of Florida's new medical marijuana program, doctors are required to disclose all the prescriptions they recommend for medicinal cannabis to a state panel. Many advocates are worried that this information will allow the state to punish doctors who are more prone to recommending marijuana.
“If you have one particular doctor who’s taking a lot of patients in, particularly for chronic pain, and these doctors are doing more to recommend medical cannabis as opposed to standard analgesis like opioids, then they’re going to be scrutinizing those doctors and questioning their practice,” Gary Stein, a medical marijuana advocate, told WUSF. "Many lawyers are telling doctors: do not practice cannabis medicine in the state of Florida because your license is at risk. And this (the board) is one of the reasons."
The state government says that these concerns are baseless, and that the new regulations are simply for data gathering purposes so Florida has as much information about the marijuana industry as possible.
“Nowhere in the statute, or in the rulemaking, is this a body of judgment," said Dr. Michelle Mendez, a member of the new panel. "It is simply a data gathering panel as designated by Florida law, and it is not an intention to limit any physician's ability to perform the job that a physician chose to perform for the best well-being of their patient.”
Others argue that even if the new regulations won't lead to punishment of doctors, it's another example of the state creating more obstacles and roadblocks for people to obtain medical marijuana that aren't put into place for more dangerous prescription drugs.
Can't Florida just do one thing politically that doesn't lead to controversy?