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Florida Matters Preview: What's Next For Medical Marijuana

This week on Florida Matters we're exploring the current rules on medical marijuana in the state and what might be in store for the industry. 

We'll hear from a medical marijuana patient and grower, as well as from members of the Health News Florida team.

In this preview, Florida Matters host Carson Cooper talks with Jamie Howe, a medical marijuana patient diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, and Darrin Potter, Chief Horticultural Officer at Grow Healthy in Lake Wales.

COOPER: Jamie, how do you receive your cannabis?

HOWE: For me, I have problems taking it orally, so I specifically have it for the smoking, for the vaporizing.

COOPER: I mean the side effect with the euphoric version of marijuana is that it gives you a buzz, does that bother you? I mean a lot of patients may not like that side effect, they don’t want to be “stoned,” if you will.

HOWE: Right, what a lot of people don’t realize is that there’s different levels of medicating. You can do what’s known as microdosing, which means you just take a couple puffs, and just a couple puffs will take away my nausea, will take away my pain. I don’t have to get stoned, I don’t have to get high to get relief.

COOPER: You’re in Pasco County, so you don’t have a dispensary nearby do you?

HOWE: I do not. I live 45 minutes away from the closest dispensary in Clearwater. My husband works, we have one car. Do you understand how very difficult that is for us to get around and for me to get down there? It’s taken me a month just to get down there. So I found out about their home delivery, but every 45 days they charge you $25 for home delivery. I mean it’s a lot of money.

I just did the math in my head, and for me to get my medicine and all my doctor visits and everything, it’s $4000 a year. Guess what? I get $1000 a month for disability, so you can imagine how much of my income is going towards my medicine. But let me tell you something, it’s worth every penny to me because it’s life to me.

COOPER: Darrin Potter, do you think patients should be able to grow their own marijuana?

POTTER: Do you think patients who consume Adderall should be able to make it in their basement?

HOWE: I’m sorry I have to disagree, because it’s a plant, number one, so anybody can grow it, it’s like a weed. Not only that, but it’s never killed anybody, Adderall has. The danger that everybody thinks is there with cannabis is not there, and so I believe patients should be able to grow their own at home.

POTTER: If I could, when an individual cultivates anything on their own and they use pesticides that are restricted, for example microbutenol turns to cyanide when you put a flame to it. When a person with an autoimmune deficiency or a compromised health condition is consuming cannabis that isn’t under a regulatory framework, they’re subject to contamination.

COOPER: Darrin, what’s the most difficult part about being a marijuana grower?

POTTER: I’m asked that question almost weekly. Everybody always assumes it’s the growing of the plant or the extraction process, but honestly that’s probably the easier part. The most difficult part that I would say is managing expectations. Managing the expectations of employees, managing the expectations of patients, managing the expectations of investors.

It’s difficult to help people understand that change takes time. We live in a culture in the United States where, you know, “I want my messages right now, I want my cheeseburger right now, I want everything right now,” and change never happens overnight, especially when you’re talking about public health and public safety. 

Personally I’ve lost family members to cancer who asked if I could help them. I’ve had friends when I moved back to Florida – “Can you please help me?” – who currently have cancer. It hurts to not be able to help them immensely but, at the same time, I look at the greater good and know that the little changes I make today will help somebody in the future.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
Carson Cooper has become a favorite of WUSF listeners as the host of "Morning Edition" on WUSF 89.7 since he took the job in 2000. Carson has worked in Tampa Bay radio for three decades.