A new medical clinic that focuses on utilizing medical marijuana as a treatment has opened in the Florida city of Lakeland, east of Tampa.
Lakeland is the latest Florida city to open a clinic specializing in the use of marijuana as a treatment method. The clinic, headed up by Dr. Aida Cuascut-Reyes, began seeing patients earlier this month.
Medical marijuana became legal in Florida last November after 71 percent of state voters approved Amendment 2. The law allows patients with a recommendation for medical marijuana from a licensed physician to purchase three 70-day supplies of cannabis oils, sprays, tinctures, edibles, and vaping materials.
The only medical cannabis option for Florida patients prior to the passing of the law was a highly-restrictive low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), high-cannabidiol (CBD) program that served only patients diagnosed with seizure disorders, muscle spasms, or cancer.
“I have a lot of patients with a lot of needs that can be addressed by medical marijuana that they didn’t have a choice before,” Cuascut-Reyes told The Ledger. She had practiced medicine in the city of Brandon for decades before coming to Lakeland, a city in Polk County with a population of approximately 106,000 people.
Florida’s new medical marijuana law significantly expands legal access to cannabis by allowing non-smokable products containing higher concentrations of THC for patients diagnosed with epilepsy, chronic muscle spasms, cancer, HIV and AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and terminal conditions.
“It’s a wide range, but it needs to be wider,” Cuascut-Reyes said in reference to the list of conditions eligible for medical marijuana. “[Medical marijuana] doesn’t cure the problem, but it helps patients be able to live during that time.”
Florida’s young medical marijuana program has seen significant growth since this summer when Governor Rick Scott signed Amendment 2 and its regulations into law. More than 10,000 patients registered for the program in June and July alone. A report from New Frontier Data and Arcview Market Research estimates that Florida’s medical market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 140 percent to hit $1.6 billion by 2020, eventually rivaling Colorado’s market.
The new Lakeland clinic is owned by Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida, a Tallahassee-based company that operates medical cannabis clinics throughout the state, including in Jacksonville, Fort Walton Beach, Miami, Longwood, Pensacola, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, and The Villages. The clinic in Lakeland is their ninth.
Before recommending medical marijuana, doctors must complete a training program overseen by the Florida Department of Health. Cuascut-Reyes and about 20 other doctors in Polk County have so far completed the state training.
The Lakeland medical marijuana clinic is not affiliated with any of the dispensaries in Florida. After receiving a recommendation from Cuascut-Reyes or other state-certified physicians at the clinic, patients obtain their cannabis material from any of the 12 dispensary operations throughout the state.
Learn More About Medical Marijuana Laws
Florida is one of 29 U.S. states to legalize medical marijuana, despite marijuana still being prohibited under federal law. You can learn more about the cannabis laws where you live by visiting our education page.