By Michael Liss, Esq.

Presently, Florida has a legal medical marijuana program. This program is nascent and between courts and legislators will inevitably undergo change in the near and long term. The program is mature enough, however, to include several hundred thousand Floridians already, and thousands more procure their licenses every month. For the program to grow and improve, and for the public’s perception and acceptance to grow, doctors and patients should support the program’s integrity by bettering their own practices. 

Not long ago Florida’s media were saturated with pain clinic advertisements. Physicians had the legal right to operate clinics and to write the prescriptions, and to advertise. However, the medical community did not self-regulate well. Doctors barely spoke to patients, processed papers and helped get drugs. The doctors who were a part of the Pill Mill problem had the rights to prescribe and advertise. They made money, but their lack of professional ethics in the face of easy money was their demise. I suggest that the medical program may find itself substantially more regulated in operation unless Qualified Physicians do a better job of self-regulating. Patients have to do better, as well.

Ours is a program regulated by one Florida statute. Qualified Physicians should follow this simple law. Not much is asked of the physician. There are 3 “substantive” duties which must be discharged by the Qualified Physician at each initial certification exam; (1) conduct a full physical examination (actual, in the same room) (2) conduct a full assessment of the patient’s medical history and (3) review the patient’s controlled drug prescription history in the drug monitoring database. 

Some Qualified Physicians are in the cannabis space for the right reasons. They are fascinated and encouraged by the healing properties of cannabis, its safety and its future. They make good money adding cannabis to their medical practices. They believe in what they do and follow the law. 

Other physicians are only in it for the money. They don’t conduct physical examinations and don’t review medical histories. They take money and help people who want cards to get their cards. While this is not going to cause adverse physical effects to the patient (like OxyContin), there are adverse impacts which may lead to serious regulation in the future. And it’s a crime. 

Doctors, your patients have social media accounts. How much time you spend with them and how much you charge them is routinely posted on Facebook and I assume many other online platforms. The reviews of your wait time, lack of diligence, and your charges, all of it are shared in real time, for all to see. Consider this; do you follow the law as if you’re actions are being reviewed, with pricing information for all to see? Medical board members may belong to Facebook groups in which patients who don’t really have a qualifying conditions but love pot share all of that information. Law enforcement, for sure, monitors all of these groups. 

I’m not crying wolf or trying to create panic, but I can’t help but notice a lack of professionalism from many qualified physicians from what I hear from too many.

Patients, it would help to sustain the system with the least regulation and police interaction if you would also follow the medical marijuana law and bettered your practices. We all have to contribute in our own roles to maintain the integrity of the program.

As was stated, it is a medical program, and it has one law with very few requirements, even for patients. A few are:

1. Don’t lie to get a card. Answer the doctor’s questions truthfully, and if the physician qualifies you, great. Lying to get a card is a crime.

2. Keep it private. Use in public, or in a car, or on a boat, or on a plane or near a school is a crime. 

3. Don’t buy on the black market. It’s still a crime, even if you’re a patient.

4. Don’t grow your own. It’s still a crime.

5. Respect law enforcement. It’s a crime to not have a card if you are carrying cannabis. It’s never a best practice to be disrespectful to law enforcement. 

6. Do not sell your cannabis, it’s a crime.

7. Do not share your cannabis, it’s a crime. And …

8. Don’t drive while under the influence. It’s a crime.

Patients, if you want to maintain this program and see it get better and simpler, instead of something the state makes suffer through, please do your part. Follow the law, be discreet, keep your business your business and promote the good doctors, good businesses and good people in the industry. Bad news gets around easy enough without your help.

Michael Liss, Esq.,, located in Boca Raton.