Lawmakers target Department of Health salaries and expenses after medical marijuana delays


Lawmakers target Department of Health salaries and expenses after medical marijuana delays


By: Jason Hackett




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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Dr. Ahmed El-Haddad with Mari J MD Medical Marijuana says the rollout here in Florida has worked in some respects.

“The state of Florida is doing a good job regulating the dispensaries and regulating the access to make sure it's not going into the wrong hands," said El-Haddad. 

It’s a system he says that still has a lot of room for improvement.

“It’s taking too long for (patients) to get approved and be allowed to go to the dispensary to pick up medical marijuana. For them to wait three to four weeks to get a card, when they can go get an opioid within two hours from their doctor … that to me is unacceptable.”

Backlogs have become a major issue, not just approval for patient identification cards, but also for growing and dispensing licenses.

It's gotten so bad that last October a legislative committee starting sending the Department of Health letters demanding answers.

Now, lawmakers are taking things one step further.

In the House's 2018 - 2019 budget proposal, an amendment would freeze $2.1 million in salaries and expenses until DOH fixes the issues.

State Rep. Jason Brodeur, who introduced the amendment, released the following statement to NewsChannel 5:

“The legislature has grown tired of hauling the office of compassionate use into their meetings to ask why they are not executing their legislatively prescribed duties. So now we are going to withhold salary and benefits until they respond to the 15 JAPC letters they have been sent since October 3rd, 2017. Regardless of any personal feelings about Amendment 2, it’s now law. A lot of us have worked very hard to craft responsible policy in our state and the office of compassionate use has undermined implementation at every turn. If we now put their salary and benefits of their executives."

El-Haddad says more funding for DOH could actually be the solution.

“There’s a high demand now, so you need to accommodate,” he says. “They should be pouring more money into this to get more employees so they could do the right thing. 

The Florida Department of Health released the following statement to NewsChannel 5:

The Florida Department of Health’s priority continues to be ensuring patients have safe access to low-THC cannabis and medical marijuana, as determined by Florida voters and outlined by the Florida Legislature. Low-THC cannabis and medical marijuana has been and continues to be available for the more than 45,000 approved Florida patients. DOH has approved 27 dispensing locations, and delivery options from licensed MMTCs. There are also more than 1,000 qualified ordering physicians available to patients, and the processing time for identification cards continues to drop and is now down to under 30 days. Since July, DOH has licensed six additional MMTCs. This issue continues to be frequently litigated by special interests, but our focus will remain with Florida patients.



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