ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There are now 700,000 medical marijuana patients in the state of Florida. That’s more than twice as many as there were at the beginning of the pandemic.
While pot proponents might cheer that statistic, critics say it’s starting to remind them of the old pill mill days in Florida with too many doctors writing too many prescriptions.
There’s no question that for many patients, legalized medical marijuana has been an effective alternative. But, some members of a board studying medical marijuana trends say just looking at the numbers, some places are starting to resemble licensed pot dealers.
There are 12 medical conditions specifically written into Florida’s medical marijuana law and 66 other conditions also considered acceptable. But, some of those are vague – like anxiety, depression, or nausea.
During the pandemic, records show the number of people now receiving medical marijuana prescriptions in Florida - called certifications - ballooned from just under 300,000 to 700,000.
According to the Physician Certification Pattern Review report, In 2020, 61-percent of those certifications were written by 9-percent of qualified positions. In 2021, it was 71-percent. Now, 80-percent of all certifications are issued by just 16-percent of the physicians qualified to write them.
Dr. Stephen Rosenberg was concerned by the trend in 2020 when the board saw what he then called parallels to Florida’s pill mills.
“It really does raise a red flag that all they’re doing is writing prescriptions,” Dr. Rosenberg said. “I think that everybody on the board was concerned about outliers that are just so disproportionate to the rest of the medical community and the real question is why.”
Most of those raising concerns concede marijuana has not been shown to be nearly as dangerous as opioids.
But, with so many more people getting prescriptions and such a concentrated number of doctors writing them critics are suggesting a need exists for more regulation.