Medical cannabis has been legal in Florida since Amendment 2 went into effect on January 3, 2017. While over 254,000 individuals have been able to navigate the steps required to become a legal patient, one of the most asked questions our office receives is “how do I become a patient?”
Step One: Find a Doctor
If you’re looking to become a legal Florida cannabis patient, you’ll need to find a “recommending” physician. Learn some tips to find the right doctor by clicking here.
Not every doctor can recommend cannabis (remember, it’s not a prescription). By law, a practitioner must be a M.D. or D.O. and must take a 2-hour, $250 course offered by the Florida Medical Association. Once the course has been completed, the doctor can apply for credentials to the Medical Marijuana Use Registry.
Here at Medicann Clinic, Dr. Heidi Kunstman is our staff physician. While she is still a Board Certified Pediatrician, we examine and treat patients of all ages.
Will I Qualify?
Many perspective patients worry they will not qualify under the law. While there are several named (enumerated) qualifying conditions, the law also allows for patients suffering from “medical conditions of the same kind or class or as comparable to” those enumerated illnesses. This sentence in the statute and constitution is vital.
The intent of Amendment 2 was to allow for safe access to cannabis by persons suffering from chronic and debilitating illnesses. In terms of definition, chronic means long term. To find the legal definition of debilitation, we must reference the Americans with Disabilities Act. Within the text, the standard of debilitation must be “a condition [that] must substantially limit a major life activity. Major life activities include such activities as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.”
Simply put, if you are suffering from a condition that restricts any major life activity and is not of an acute nature (like a broken finger), you will qualify under the law.
Since cannabis’s side effect profile is small and predictable and has never resulted in acute fatality, we view marijuana as a “do no harm” method of treatment. Being safer for patients to consume than aspirin, we believe cannabis should be a first option for patients rather than the last resort medication some lawmakers believe.
If cannabis can help you treat your condition without the need for prescription manufactured pharmaceuticals, we believe wholeheartedly you should be able to obtain legal access.
Step Two: Your Initial Appointment
Once you’ve found a cannabis physician, you must make an initial appointment. Few reputable clinics offer walk-in service, so it’s best to call in advance and schedule a visit. With us, you can call the office or self schedule directly online.
Be prepared for paperwork! Since the state requires a “full review of the patient’s medical history”, the standard intake forms required for a medical marijuana appointment in Florida are usually quite lengthy. We send our paperwork to patients electronically when the appointment is scheduled and we ask individuals to complete it all prior to their appointment.
It is vitally important you fill out the intake paperwork as completely and correctly as possible. Comprehensive documentation is the best protection of both the physician and the patient.
At Medicann Clinic, you’re first seen by our nursing assistant to obtain your vitals and begin your chart. Dr. Kunstman will then spend 20-30 minutes with you to discuss your health concerns, explain how cannabis will work for you, inform you of any drug interactions to watch out for, and answer any questions you may have. Lastly, our Patient Educator will provide you with tailored education and dispensary information to better help you achieve your health goals.
Our appointments take about an hour.
I’m Already with Another Doctor, Can I Transfer?
Yes! The state makes it incredibly simple to transfer cannabis physicians. You must log into your Medical Marijuana Use Registry profile, click “Your Profile” from the top menu, click “Manage Profile Details” below all of your demographic information, then click “Leave Your Current Physician”.
This simple procedure allows existing patients to deactivate themselves from their prior doctor so their new physician can activate, certify, and order for them. If you have open and scheduled orders from your prior doctor, they will remain active even if you deactivate yourself.
Step Three: Apply For Your ID Card
After you’ve completed your paperwork and the physician agrees that you qualify for the Florida medical marijuana program, your information is then entered into the Medical Marijuana Use Registry. New patients will receive two emails from the state – one with their username and another with a temporary password.
Once you log in, you can complete your Patient ID Card application directly online. The Office of Medical Marijuana Use has integrated the Registry with the Motor Vehicle Picture Database, so if your information matches in the system your picture will be automatically pulled and attached.
You’ll need to take a picture of your Drivers License or State Identification and upload it as proof of residency (if you complete your application using a tablet or smartphone you can take a picture of your proof of residency and upload it from your photo gallery).
If you are a part time resident (the law allows persons living in Florida for at least 31 consecutive days per year to qualify within the program) or if you have a new address that hasn’t been updated on your state identification you’ll have to scan and submit other documentation as required to prove your residency.
The cost of a Patient ID Card is currently $75 per year, and you can pay online using your credit card or bank account information.
What is The Registry and is my Information Secure?
The Medical Marijuana Use Registry, administered by the Department of Health, is the master database of all medical marijuana patients in the state. Originally launched in September 2016, the Registry is where physicians qualify, certify, and order for patients. The MMUR also provides patients and caregivers with a profile to apply for and renew their Patient ID Cards, see their certifications and orders, and track their dispensements. Lastly, the state’s dispensaries can verify your orders and must deduct milligrams (or ounces for whole flower) whenever you make a purchase.
Currently access to the Medical Marijuana Use Registry is limited to Department of Health employees, physicians, patients and caregivers, MMTC’s (medical marijuana treatment centers aka dispensaries), and law enforcement officers. Unlike the others, law enforcement may only see if a patient is legal to possess and purchase and what routes are allowed. LEO’s cannot see any of your health information like qualifying condition(s).
No other governmental entity (like another state or the Federal government) has access to the Registry. The state of Florida has even built privacy protections into the law to ensure your protected health information is secure.
Step Four: Visit a Dispensary or Call to Order!
So long as everything is correct with your Patient ID Card application, within 10-20 days you will receive an email from the Medical Marijuana Use Registry alerting you to the approval of your application. While it will take an additional few weeks to receive your plastic ID card in the mail, as soon as you get your approval email you may visit any of the state’s dispensaries or call any of the MMTCs to place a delivery order. Simply make sure you’ve got your drivers license or identification card with you.
There are now over 100 dispensaries open within the state and several companies who offer delivery service. You can visit our Patient Portal and visit websites of the various MMTCs.
Steps To Successful Treatment
Cannabis is unlike any other medicine in that it puts you in direct control of your treatment. Everyone is different and cannabis affects us all uniquely. Once you become a legal patient, here are some quick pointers to help you become more successful with your treatment:
- Learn about first time patient discounts at the MMTCs before you place an order. Many dispensaries offer some incredible incentives for your first purchase. Don’t forget to ask!
- Don’t spend a lot of money on products before you know what will work for you.
- Start low and go slow. If you’re cannabis inexperienced it’s best to begin with minimal doses of THC and work yourself up.
- Keep a journal. Use a notebook and notate the day, time, product used, dose, and effect (positive or negative) you have when medicating. For patients who are more tech savvy, there are apps such as (Releaf) that can be of great help.
The process to becoming a legal Florida patient can seem daunting at first, but if you find a medical marijuana clinic willing to answer questions and help you along the way you can fast track results and have a much more positive experience.