Legal medical marijuana hits the market this summer

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The wait for some forms of legal marijuana is almost over. State legislators legalized low-THC marijuana, also known as Charlotte’s Web, two years ago. The product should finally hit the market this summer.

The Compassionate Care Act was signed into law in 2014. It regulates the use of low-THC marijuana, the kind that does not get you high, for people suffering from three types of illnesses: cancer, seizures, or muscle spasms. Just last month, full-strength marijuana was added to the act but only for people suffering from a terminal illness.

Two years later, one of the growers approved by the state, Alpha Foilage, has a crop they say will be ready for patients this summer. Alpha Foilage joined with Surterra Therapeutics to manage its new marijuana business.

“It’s been a long time but it’s been a long time for the patients the children that have been waiting for years,” said Susan Driscoll, president of Surterra Therapeutics and managing director of Alpha Foilage. “But do you know what the great news is? In June, or late June, early July, we’re going to have product available for those people and we are so excited about getting it to them.”

But just because the product will be available, does not mean patients will immediately have access to the medication. Patients who qualify for Charlotte’s Web through the Compassionate Care Act must have a qualified doctor sign off on the prescription. One of the new rules signed into law last month requires that a person be a patient with that doctor for at least three months. The Compassionate Care Act also requires that any doctor prescribing marijuana in the state become certified through the state.

“We really want to make sure those people who have been waiting so long to get the product that they go to their current physicians and ask their physicians to go and get registered take the course to get on the registry or look on the registry and start a relationship now with one of those physicians that has already taken the course and is approved,” Driscoll suggested.

The Compassionate Care Act only covers patients suffering from four types of illnesses. In November, voters will once again decide whether or not to make full-strength medical marijuana available to anyone who is suffering from a debilitating disease.

A similar measure, Amendment Two, didn’t pass two years ago. But Ben Pollara, an Amendment Two advocate and campaign manager for “United for Care,” believes this time will be different.

“I think we learned from our mistakes, in 2014,” he said. “We’ve had the opportunity to go back and revise the amendment based on the input of the Supreme Court, based on the politics of the election, and I think we’ve written a much much stronger amendment. It should be much more palatable to voters, but bottom line is we got really broad strong support the last time despite a really, really low voter turnout and despite a really, really strong opposition campaign, and I think we’re going to do a heck of a lot better this time.”

When addressing critics of Amendment Two, Pollara asked them to think of their loved ones.

“If somebody you loved was dying or was really really ill and their doctor said that medical marijuana could help them, wouldn’t you want them to be able to receive that help,” he said.

Some doctors in the state believe that medical marijuana is the answer and they are already prescribing it despite some in the state saying it is not yet legal. They are citing a law passed in 2001 that gives them the right to help their patients.

WINK News will have that story on Thursday at 6 p.m.

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