Q: How do you determine whether a patient’s medical condition is of the “same kind or class” as the conditions that qualify for medical cannabis in Florida?
The State of Florida has provided very little guidance on how the State’s new medical cannabis laws are to be interpreted or enforced. As a result, doctors (and their attorneys) have repeatedly been left scrambling to figure out how to comply with these laws.
One new regulation that physicians must abide by is submitting a document that justifies how and why a patient qualifies for a Florida medical marijuana ID card. This is required if the patient does not have one of the ten diagnoses listed in the law, as described in the State’s voter-approved Amendment 2 ballot initiative. In other words, the law has a provision that allows for diagnoses of “medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to” those listed in the statute, which I also refer to as the “other” conditions. (See https://wholisticreleaf.com/medical-cannabis/eligibility/).
Based on the information we’ve compiled, there are innumerable “other” debilitating medical conditions that could potentially qualify a patient to be treated with medical cannabis under state law. Note, if a patient has one or more of the ten diagnoses listed in the statute, that patient does not have to meet the criteria discussed below.
Symptoms of the Debilitating Medical Condition
There are a few things I must understand about the patient to determine whether their medical condition is of the “same kind or class as or comparable to” those listed. To start, I must determine if they suffer from a debilitating medical condition that has symptoms similar to or comparable with those associated with the conditions mentioned within the statute. If they do, are the symptoms debilitating? Meaning, does it interfere with core aspects of their life? For example, does it affect their ability to lead a normal, active life or be fully employed? Does it negatively impact their personal or professional relationships? Does it impede their ability to participate in society fully? If so, in my opinion, the patient has crossed the first hurdle toward potentially qualifying to be treated with medical cannabis under Florida law.
Medical Documentation of the Patient’s Diagnosis
In addition to the evaluation we also require that all patients submit reliable medical documentation stating their diagnosis (e.g., patient medical records or an official letter from the patient’s diagnosing licensed health care provider). This is required regardless of whether the patient has one of the statute’s listed medical conditions or a condition that may qualify under the “other” category.
At Florida Medical Cannabis Clinic (FMCC), if a patient submits the required medical documentation before their in-office appointment or even before scheduling the appointment, we will review the material ahead-of-time to determine if there is sufficient evidence of the patient’s diagnosis.
Because we recognize it can take time to secure the appropriate documentation from another provider’s office, we will see patients before receiving their medical records. However, the patient must acknowledge that even if they otherwise qualify for medical cannabis, they cannot be certified to apply for a Medical Marijuana ID card until their diagnosis has been satisfactorily confirmed and documented in their chart.
Physician’s Professional Opinion About the Medical Condition
If it is determined that the medical condition falls under the “other” category of diagnoses, the physician provides documentation to the patient and the State supporting their opinion that the medical condition is of the “same kind or class as” the listed conditions. Family Medical Cannabis Clinic has compiled extensive research from reputable medical entities specifying how particular medical conditions are similar to or comparable to one of the conditions listed in the law. Our resources include the National Institutes of Health (NIH), medical textbooks, medical journals, medical societies, and nonprofit health organizations.
Data Supporting the Use of Medical Cannabis for the Diagnosis
We must also provide clinical, medical, or scientific data documentation that establishes the efficacy of marijuana as a treatment for the similar or comparable condition. Over the past year, I have been compiling a database of medical studies that discuss the various conditions and symptoms that could benefit from medical cannabis. These publications, which are mainly found in PubMed (the U.S. National Library of Medicine compiled by the NIH National Center for Biotechnology Information), serve as the foundation for our comprehensive understanding of the medical benefits that can be obtained from medical cannabis treatments.
What to Do Next
We are delighted to be treating qualified patients with medical cannabis in Florida and are seeing wonderful improvements with many of our patients. If you believe you or a loved one may qualify for medical cannabis treatment, please review the information on our website and submit our initial intake form to receive more information.
Family Medical Cannabis Clinic and Wholistic Pediatric and Family Care have been treating patients with medical cannabis since 2016. As the Tampa Bay area’s leading authority on medical cannabis treatment and one of the nation’s most experienced pediatricians treating with medical cannabis, Dr. David Berger is committed to first understanding his patients’ needs. He then customizes a medical cannabis treatment plan that will produce the most effective results. For more information about medical cannabis treatment in Florida, please visit our website by clicking here. Existing patients may also contact the clinic directly through their patient portal.