Florida already is seeing some growing pains when it comes to medical marijuana — just ask Winter Park resident Christina Cusack.
The Winter Parker is one of many Floridians still waiting to receive their medical marijuana card, which allows them to obtain the medication from local dispensaries.
Cusack suffers from multiple sclerosis and has severe pain throughout her body.
A doctor recommended medical cannabis as treatment at the beginning of August, but she’s still waiting to receive her card as of press time.
“There’s a flood of people applying for these licenses,” Cusack said. “(The state is) overwhelmed.”
State departments say the delays are caused by the increasing number of medical marijuana users throughout Florida. The state passed a medical marijuana amendment by 71% in November to treat conditions such as cancer, epilepsy and Crohn’s disease.
Florida isn’t the only state experiencing delays, Florida Department of Health Communications Director Mara Gambineri said.
“As far as cards are concerned, it takes approximately 30 days to process a complete application for an Office of Medical Marijuana Use registry identification card,” Gambineri said. “For context, several other large states including Illinois, Oregon and Colorado have experienced similar surges in demand for medical marijuana card applications following legislation and referendums, with Colorado reaching a processing time for medical marijuana identification card of nine weeks.”
Dr. Pedro Oliveros, a physician qualified to prescribe medical marijuana from his office in Maitland, has recommended the medical marijuana cards to about 80 patients. However, the majority have complained about long waits — some who have been waiting since June and still haven’t received a card.
“They’ve promised 30 days or four weeks, but it’s not really happening,” Oliveros said. “(Patients) keep calling, and we tell them we can’t do anything about it… The majority really has to wait for a long time.”
Oliveros added that many applications are being declined and delayed because they were not filled out properly. A common culprit is the photo that must be submitted with the application. It’s best to use a passport photo taken at a CVS or a Walgreens and not a selfie taken on a phone, Oliveros’ medical assistant Carmen Candelaria said.
Medical marijuana also has brought about a new wave of criminal activity in Florida. The Attorney General’s Office has received at least seven complaints of medical marijuana fraud, with online vendors claiming to be selling medical marijuana or selling a medical marijuana “membership.”
Some entities are even posing as the state’s Office of Compassionate Use. A complaint from a Windermere resident in April reported a small sign outside The Grove that read “Legal Weed — Office visit $199 — 866-999-2007.”
“‘Legal Weed’ sounds like a quack outfit who set up a store front and charges $199 for some bogus doctor to write down some phony excuse to get a ‘prescription’ for marijuana,” resident Kathryn Berger wrote in a complaint. “A real company that was following the letter and spirit of the law wouldn’t put out signs like that, which violate Orange County code in the first place, would never call it ‘weed,’ and would never place the sign near a place like a pediatric dentist where children frequent.”