State medical boards should take action against Florida physicians who are inappropriately recommending medical marijuana for their patients, Florida Cabinet member and state Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried said Tuesday.
“Our priority is making sure we have professionals inside of this program,” said Fried, a Democrat and former medical marijuana lobbyist who ran for the statewide Cabinet post last year on the promise of making medical marijuana more easily accessible to those who qualify.
“But, of course, if any doctors are getting in the program and are unethically prescribing and recommending the medical marijuana, that’s something that we need to look into and that’s something for the Board of Medicine to have some swift action on,” she added.
The News service of Florida reported in December that a new state analysis prepared for the Legislature shows that the number of Floridians using medical marijuana continues to grow despite a slow rollout.
In the first nine months of 2018, more than 136,000 patients across the state received certifications from 1,070 physicians to receive medical marijuana.
In all, those patients received 174,254 certifications — some could have received multiple certifications — for a host of medical conditions that qualify them to use marijuana. That included 41,143 certifications, or nearly 24 percent of the overall total, for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The report, issued by the Physician Certification Pattern Review Panel, also shows that physicians in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Palm Beach counties accounted for more than 30 percent of the medical marijuana certifications between January and Sept. 30.
The average medical-marijuana dose ordered was 372 milligrams per day, according to the data. But in Highlands County, where 470 patients were certified to receive the drugs, the average dose was 3,956 milligrams.
And in Nassau County, where two patients were reported as being certified, the average dose ordered was 17 milligrams.
Thirty-one states allow patients to use medical marijuana, including nine states that also have approved marijuana for recreational purposes.
Lawmakers in 2017 passed a state law authorizing the use of medical marijuana, which was approved by Florida voters in November 2016. The new law required Florida’s two medical boards to form a joint committee that examines and analyzes the ordering patterns for physicians who certify patients. The panel is required to annually submit a report to the governor and legislative leaders. The new report is the first time such a document has been produced and submitted to the Legislature.
The Legislature is expected to address medical marijuana when it meets in its regular 60-day legislative session that is scheduled to begin March 5.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana runs afoul the intent of amendment, and has given lawmakers until March 15 to repeal the smoking ban.
— By The News Service of Florida staff writer Christine Sexton.