Medical Marijuana Use Rises in Florida Among Calls of Caution Over Higher Potency

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FNN) – The Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) of the Florida Department of Health presented the current state of medical marihuana in the state, during a session with the Professions & Public Health Subcommittee of the Florida House of Representatives.

OMMU director Christopher Fergusson indicated that there are currently 2,644 physicians and 448,693 patients in Florida as of February 2021.

Certifications grew 291 percent between 2019 and 2021, from 169,573 to 664,779. 71 percent of them were issued by 12 percent of qualified physicians.

Edibles became available as an administration route in August of 2020, and between 2019 and 2020 there were 199,677 orders for them. Inhalations are still the main source of administration (1,837,293 between 2019 and 2020), followed by oral orders (1,827,093). All other orders (sublingual, suppository, and topical) totaled 1,726,214.

There are currently 27 processing facilities, 20 fulfillment and storage facilities, 313 dispensaries, and 36 farms in the state.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was the leading cause of prescription for medical marijuana in 2020, followed by cancer and schizophrenia.

Tracking of orders is still complicated, said Fergusson. “The Department has attempted twice to obtain a seat to sale system, but we have been rejected both times by the two companies that make the systems. We know what benefits that would bring. One of the things that help us is that we have a robust registry of qualified physicians.”

Fergusson also added that current costs for being a medicinal marijuana patient are at seventy-five dollars a year, and legislation is working on bills trying to reduce the cost.

The Committee also heard a presentation from Doctor Bertha Madras, Professor of Microbiology at Harvard University, about the concerns over the higher potency in marijuana.

“Marijuana has not gone through a rigorous FDA processing,” Madras explained. “It cannot be categorized in the same frame of reference as medicines that have gone through the same process.”

The main component that contributes to a more potent variety of marijuana is, of course, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that is very similar to chemicals in the brain.

Potency started in the 70s at one to three percent of THC in close to six grams of marijuana; by the mid-2000s it had grown to between 20 and 90 percent.

“The problem with a higher concentration is that the user gets a greater wallop,” she continued. “The motivations for increasing the percentages of THC are very obvious: it’s the same motivation that developed crystal meth and spirits. It leads to lower costs and higher profits.”

Madras quoted a study of over 8,000 cannabis samples in 653 dispensaries that advertised to have less than 15 percent. The actual concentration (19.2 percent in 6.2 grams) was closer to recreational programs (21.5 percent).

Madras added that products with more than 70 percent THC account for 21 percent of all sales in some states. No state has adopted a policy of capping the amount of THC in medicinal cannabis.

The study cited also that youths between the ages of 12 and 17 are more likely to start using marijuana within 52 days of seeing their parents using them. 20.6 percent would be addicted during their fourth year of usage, compared to 10.5 percent of adults in the same time.

It also indicates that higher potency marijuana products are associated with a higher risk of psychosis, lower age for schizophrenia, impaired brain function, use of other drugs, and addiction.

The suggested guidelines for the study is mainly to abstain using cannabis altogether, or at least with lower THC content and higher cannabidiol (CBD) component, which is similarly effective but less potent.


Juan Carlo Rodriguez is a politics and entertainment reporter for Florida National News. |

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