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No card, no medicine for thousands of marijuana patients

(WJRT)
Published: Oct. 16, 2017 at 9:06 PM EDT
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By: Mike Vasilinda | WCTV Eyewitness News

October 16, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Thousands of medical marijuana patients are caught in a catch 22; they have been recommended for treatment, but they can’t start receiving medication until they get an ID card from the state, which has been delayed because of short staffing.

Lauren Drake’s parents, both in their 70’s, have been recommended for medical marijuana. Drake says getting the recommendation has been far easier than getting the medicine.

“It took 50 days for an approval. They still haven’t received their cards,” says Drake.

Christian Bax, the Director of Medical Marijuana Use in Florida, told lawmakers the ID card delay was running 30 days.

Others. like Drake, say the wait can be two or even three months.

Jeff Sharkey of the Medical Marijuana Business Association says part of the problem is short staffing.

“You know, if you’re sick, it’s a long wait,” says Sharkey.

Drakes’s problem is even more complicated.

“My mother doesn’t know what to go down and get from the one dispensary that we have in our location. My father is not capable of going. I don’t know how, at this point, to go and get the caregiver card so that I can go,” says Drake.

Drake can’t get a caregiver's card because the state has yet to issue rules for getting them. She says the state isn’t focusing on patients.

“Why couldn’t my parents walk out and immediately go to the local dispensary and get medicine? I don’t understand what the holdup was,” she says.

The delay is shortening the time between patients' visits to their doctor, increasing their costs.

When patients get a recommendation for medical marijuana, it’s good for nine months. But, the clock starts ticking the day that recommendation is made, not when the card is issued.

The department is in the process of hiring a private vendor to issue ID cards. But the wait could get worse before it gets better.

Monday afternoon, the Department of Health said it now had 44,164 patients and 1,066 doctors. The department has issued 21,873 cards to date.

The department also says their email can serve as a temporary card, but one Ft. Myers patient told us by phone his dispensary would not accept his email.