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Plants for Pain: Medical Marijuana

By Dakota Parks for Coming of Age Magazine

Over the last hundred years, cannabis has gotten a bad reputation. Crackdowns on the plant began as early as 1910, and the United States nationally outlawed cannabis with the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. The spread of yellow journalism in the States painted cannabis as a deviant substance. In the 1970s, the U.S. came down harder listing it as a controlled substance with “no accepted medical usage.” Finally, the early 1990s revolutionized the plant as scientists discovered cannabinoid receptors in the brain and early trials for medical marijuana were passed. Flash forward to the present day and 33 states have comprehensive medical marijuana programs.


Medical marijuana programs are regulated at the state level. To register for the medical marijuana program in Florida, a person must have a medical condition that qualifies them to enroll in the program. Currently, there are 12 conditions written into the law, which include Cancer, Epilepsy, Glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Seizures, Crohn's disease, Chronic muscle spasms, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.


However, Amendment 2 of the law also states that medical marijuana (MMJ) doctors may certify patients for other medical conditions they deem beneficial for medical marijuana treatment. For a comprehensive list of other conditions or questions, speak to a local MMJ doctor. Once a MMJ doctor signs off on their recommendation, a patient must submit an application to the Florida State Department for their prescription card. The medical marijuana certifications are good for 210 days, which typically includes the initial visit and three 70-day refills before a patient must visit their MMJ doctor again for a renewal.


The entire process takes about two weeks. While the process is entirely an out-of-pocket expense, most patients phase off of prescription drugs once they start cannabis treatment. Research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development revealed that people age 65 and older make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 34 percent of all prescription medication use.


On average, senior citizens take 4.5 prescription drugs a month and spend double the amount on medication than other age groups. Furthermore, the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research found that 44 percent of medical cannabis users stopped taking a pharmaceutical drug or phased off of one or more in favor of cannabis.


The cost of medical marijuana is entirely dependent on the patient. Each form of cannabis varies by price and each patient uses different strains and quantities of the products. The forms include oral capsules, tinctures, vape inhalation, topical creams, and smokable flower.


Nick Hansen, The Director of Government Affairs for the dispensary MedMen, explained that the average ticket for a patient at their dispensary is about $100, but that varies a lot per patient.


“Cannabis has a lot more power for the patient; they have to find out what works for them by modulating their dosage and product usage. It’s one of the medicinal benefits of cannabis: patients can micro-dose and find out what works for them without fear of overdosing or messing up,” said Hansen.


Micro-dosing is a technique in which patients can take very small amounts of product that do not result in full-body effects or euphoric experiences. Dispensaries like MedMen in Pensacola list full product descriptions of each product so that patients can even choose their own ratio of CBD to THC to avoid euphoric effects while retaining medicinal qualities.


One medical marijuana doctor in town, Dr. William Hass with Empathic Practice, explained that a cannabis plant has anywhere from 90 to 110 different elements or alkaloids in it. “Of those elements, CBD and THC are just two elements. We really are full- plant believers here in our clinic. CBD is really prone to mislabeling, contamination, and adulteration, so you have to be very careful where you get it from,” said Dr. Hass.


Dispensaries are the most reliable source for CBD products because they are required to undergo testing and third-party verification methods for products. Both Empathic Practice and MedMen are revolutionizing the process of obtaining a medical marijuana card and shopping for products.


“We are a multidisciplinary clinic, so we don’t believe in just issuing approval for medical marijuana cards. It’s important to promote a process that incorporates the whole person—a holistic treatment plan” said Dr. Hass.


After meeting with Dr. Hass, patients have the option, at no extra expense, to meet with a mindfulness coach that really individualizes their treatment options. The mindfulness coach helps beginners learn about the various types, strains, and modes of medical cannabis. From there, patients can gather even more information from dispensaries.


“Our stores are highly staffed. When you walk into the store, there are six or seven staff members on the floor that will greet you at the door and check you in. We consider ourselves an elevated shopping experience—that experience is really the genesis of MedMen, which was founded in California 10 years ago,” said Hansen. “It was built on the idea that patients, whether in a medical market or adult- use market, should view cannabis as a normal retail experience. You should have the ability to walk in and not feel like you’re walking into a sterile hospital setting, instead it should be normalized like walking into a CVS or pharmacy for a prescription.”


In addition to giving patients control of their dosage, treatment methods and shopping experiences, medical marijuana is making strides in getting patients off opiates and fighting opioid addiction. Both Dr. Hass and Mr. Hansen had only positive remarks about the role of medical marijuana in fighting the opioid epidemic. One leading factor of the opioid crisis is the over prescription of opiates for chronic pain.


“Senior citizens seem to come to us in two different groups. One are those with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, and the other group is those with chronic pain. Chronic pain must be related to a qualifying condition, but the percentage of the population that has chronic pain is something like 20 percent. Chronic pain is an important issue, but it’s also important that we don’t make medical marijuana a more expensive aspirin.”


Dr. Hass stressed that medical marijuana does wonders for chronic pain, but it also has a plethora of other symptom reliefs, including seizure prevention, increasing appetite in anorexic and cancer patients and relaxing muscles in those with Muscular Dystrophy.


The cannabis plant has come a long way from its dark and yellowed history. As more states continue to adopt medical marijuana programs and additional bills are sent to congress for national legalization, the acceptance and medical usage are only going to continue to skyrocket.


CERTIFICATIONS AND COSTS

Initial consultation and recommendation appointment:

$199-250+


FL state card registration fee:

$75


Start-up Equipment and Dispensary fees:

$25-150


Yearly Card Renewal Fee:

$75


Follow-up Visits:

$80-$200


Total Yearly Estimate:

$650


MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSERIES IN PENSACOLA

MedMen

850-361-3920

5048 Bayou Blvd,

Pensacola, FL 32503


Trulieve Pensacola

850-777-3360

3119 N Davis Hwy,

Pensacola, FL 32503


Suterra Wellness

850-249-5793

5046 Bayou Blvd Suite A,

Pensacola, FL 32503


VidaCann

850-741-2895

2401 Langley Ave Unit A,

Pensacola, FL 32504


MEDICAL MARIJUANA DOCTORS IN PENSACOLA

Empathic Practice:

850-777-3334

801 E Cervantes St Suite C

Pensacola, FL 32501


Dr. Michelle Beasley,

Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics:

(850) 906-5000

810 Scenic Hwy Suite C

Pensacola, FL 32503


East Hill Medical

(850)-437-0035

99 South Alcaniz Street

Pensacola, FL 32502


Dr. Tim Tuel, Baptist Medical Group

(850)-437-8637

1717 North E Street

Pensacola, FL 32501


Releaf Medical Marijuana

Clinic: 850-361-2752

4300 Bayou Boulevard

Pensacola, FL 32503


Pensacola Marijuana Doctor: 850-454-4362

744 E Burgess Rd Suite

A-104, Pensacola, FL 32504

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