Chronic pain has Florida residents signing up for medical marijuana by the thousands, over 3,000 per week. The second most prevalent condition is post-traumatic stress disorder.
As of March 2019, more than 180,000 Florida residents have registered for medical marijuana, legalized two years ago. Unlike other states which have legalized the drug for medicinal purposes, Florida’s Department of Health, which is in charge of the program, is reluctant to release statistics, citing them as information “protected” under the law. It took NBC News months and multiple inquiries to ferret out the statistics cited in this article.
However, doctors seem pleased with access to a pain management alternative for their patients. Dr. Michelle Weiner, a specialist in the field, thinks opioids are far more addictive than marijuana, contending that patients will be less likely to abuse the drug to the point of becoming addicted.
Broward County has the highest number of registered users, numbering more than 4500. Patients can ingest the drug by vaping, orally taking marijuana oil or using skin patches.
Marijuana is otherwise illegal in Florida, but that may soon change. Regulate Florida, an organization promoting the legal use of recreational marijuana is attempting to get an initiative on the ballot by next year. According to attorney Mike Minardi, the issue is about “everyday people” who use cannabis.
But the downside to the increase of legalized marijuana use seems to be an increase in traffic accidents. While it remains uncertain whether legalized marijuana use has led to an increase in the number of traffic accidents, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for the second year has uncovered what it calls “a troubling trend.” Data from police reports and insurance claims show that in states with legalized recreational marijuana, car accidents rose between 5 to 6%.
One other concern mentioned in the report is that approximately 14% of drivers confirmed to be under the influence of marijuana had children in the car with them.
While these are notable statistics, David Harkey, the president of the IIHS, advises caution in jumping to conclusions. There is a correlation in the data, he said, but that is not the same as causation. Nevertheless, as more and more states legalize marijuana for medical purposes as well as recreational use, the situation bears on-going scrutiny.
For the latest in medical marijuana news and legislation: Health News Florida
Do I qualify for medical marijuana? Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use