Why has Medical Marijuana (MMJ) gained popularity in the State of Florida?

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More states are legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and currently, around 5.4 million US residents use cannabis for their medical needs in compliance with their state law. Most state laws require a detailed medical assessment before issuing an MMJ permit to elucidate the benefits and possible risks of taking medical marijuana (MMJ). Over 550,000 MMJ patients that account for 10% of all MMJ users in the United States, live in Florida (read more about medical marijuana use in Florida). Thus, a piece of comprehensive information about the Florida MMJ patients' demographics, reason, patterns of use, and the success or failure in their treatment may help future patients to take more decisive action.

Marijuana or cannabis have been used for medicinal purposes for more than 5000 years. Cannabis was a popular and widely available medicinal plant throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in the USA and Europe. It was used to alleviate pain, promote muscle relaxation and increase the appetite in the patients. However, due to economic and political changes in the early twentieth century, the laws and attitudes toward cannabis changed. In 1970, after the establishment of the controlled substance act, controlled substances were categorized from 1 with the highest potential abuse to 5 with the lowest. Despite the numerous scientifically proven pieces of evidence on the benefits and safety of cannabis, it was classified as a Schedule I substance and remained there for more than 30 years. However, the national academies of science, engineering, and medicine report confirmed the efficacy of cannabis and cannabinoids to treat various health conditions by analyzing over 10,000 studies (read more about the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids here), resulting in the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes.  

As of May 19, 2021, a total of 36 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have approved comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana/cannabis programs. As of June 22, 2021, 18 states, two territories and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation to regulate cannabis for nonmedical use. Now more than a third of the country lives in a state where medical marijuana is legal. https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx

In 2014, Florida became the 22nd state that legalized the medical use of marijuana. After California, Florida has the 2nd highest number of MMJ users in the US, and around 2.6% of its population use MMJ ( you can read more about the use of MMJ in Florida here). Now, qualified patients in Florida have access to full-strength medical cannabis. Eligible medical conditions in Florida include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDs, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis (MS), terminal conditions, and chronic pain are on the list.

In addition to these are many medical conditions of the same kind or class that are comparable and also qualify for treatment with medical marijuana.

Florida is the 3rd most populous state in the country, with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. It also has the highest number of residents over 65, and several studies were performed to determine the best practice and typical use of MMJ patients in Florida. In 2021, in a study by Florida Gulf Coast University, several legally registered MMJ users in Florida were surveyed. Although all the patients reported using medical marijuana on a daily basis, about 94% did not feel any addiction or dependency on cannabis. The majority of the patients used high THC/low CBD strains, and around 25% used CBD-only strains. The patients reported spending an average of about $300 a month on MMJ products, and the major routes of administrations are reported as inhalation (vaping and smoking), tincture drops, and edibles. It is worth noting that inhalation offers a faster onset, better dose control, and more consistent results than edibles.

The study also showed that around 65% of the patients on MMJ have completely discontinued or reduced taking prescription opioids and over-the-counter sedative drugs. Approximately 116 million US citizens suffer from chronic pain, and in most cases, opioids are prescribed to alleviate the pain in these patients (read more). On the other hand, opioid-related overdose deaths kill about 130 Americans every day (opioids overdose epidemic). Cannabinoids alleviate the pain via several mechanisms in the body and act synergistically with opioid or NSAID pain relievers. It means that lower doses of other pain killers (i.e., opioids) are needed to reach an adequate pain-relieving level. Thus, cannabinoids are relatively safer options than opioids and can significantly prevent opioid abuse with an economic burden of an estimated USD 80 billion per year (read more about the economic burden of opioid abuse here).

Around 82% of the patients who participated in this study (demographics, perceptions, and use of medical marijuana among patients in Florida) had symptoms of anxiety and stress, which by taking MMJ, around 87% of the users reported significant or complete relief of anxiety and stress. Approximately 30% of Americans have experienced some sort of anxiety in their lives (read more), and about 44 million individuals aged 12 and older use sedatives or tranquilizers to relieve their symptoms daily, which their abuse or overdose can be fatal (substance abuse and overdose). Thus, the efficacy of medical marijuana in reducing anxiety and stress symptoms should be considered.

Moreover, the MMJ users in this study reported significant or complete relief of symptoms from general inflammation and post-chemotherapy nausea, which was also demonstrated in other studies such as (comparison between medical cannabis and mainstream medicine, who are medical marijuana patients, and medical cannabis pattern of use), which showed that MMJ patients experienced a significant relief for many other health situations, including, ADHD, depression, alcohol dependency, chronic headaches, insomnia, and muscle spasms. Although some patients reported some off-target effects such as muscle relaxation, dry mouth, and drowsiness, compared to mainstream drugs with lower therapeutic efficacy and more severe side effects, the off-target effects of cannabinoids can be ignored.

This study also showed that the majority of the patients did not receive sufficient information about MMJ from their physicians. Thus, they relied on the information provided by their dispensary, which is not adequate and comprehensive in many cases. Kaya Life is the first Cannabis Physician Office to open in the Panhandle of Florida. Kaya Life's first consultation was just 27 days after voters approved The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, on November 8, 2016. At Kaya Life, a team of experienced physicians and knowledgeable staff are committed to providing Pensacola, Santa Rosa Beach, and Panama City residents with a medical marijuana resource for information and treatment on a wide variety of ailments, as well as compassion, dignity, and a commitment to patient satisfaction. Contact us today for a consultation on your medical marijuana options.

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