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Hashing out the highs and lows of medical marijuana

Hashing out the highs and lows of medical marijuana

The medical marijuana industry is blazing.

Touring the Trulieve grow and processing facilities in Quincy, Florida, we found out navigating the medical cannabis industry can be intimidating.

After exhausting all other options though, Holley Moseley didn't have a choice.

"I'm the parent of a child with epilepsy," said Moseley.

Moseley's daughter, RayAnn, is the motivation behind the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, passed in 2014.

"Every single step of the way it was worth it, because RayAnn is now two-years seizure free," said Moseley. "She has come almost completely off her anti-epileptic medications; her implantable device is turned off. She's coming alive and doing things that we never thought would be possible."

Helping to pave the way for medical marijuana in Florida, Moseley is not done fighting. The most recent win, she says, is the passing of the Federal Farm Bill in December, which legalizes hemp.

“We're all excited," said Moseley. "However, it's not quite legal yet, we still have to wait for each state to write its rules, then they have to send those to the federal government to be approved."

It's the same legal process currently holding up edibles and other forms of medical cannabis from hitting dispensary shelves.

Moseley, a nurse, says anyone considering medical cannabis should consult a doctor for product and dosing recommendations.

"The hard part is finding a physician in this state to be able to help you," said Moseley.

Dr. Michelle Beasley is one of about 2,000 physicians in Florida who can help.

"I probably see 80 patients a week," said Beasley.

Ranked among the highest in the state for medical cannabis certifications, Beasley says a major bonus with the drug - it's customizable.

"Patients have choices," said Beasley. "Do you do something that's mostly CBD, something that's mostly THC or somewhere in between?"

CBD is typically recommended for patients suffering from seizures and inflammation. Beasley says THC works best for someone with chronic pain or trouble eating and sleeping.

"There's over 500 chemicals in the cannabis plant," said Beasley. "So, you vary those 500 chemicals and you get different results."

Plant variation also comes into play. Cultivation manager Kyle Landrum tells us there are two main types - indica and sativa.

"If you consume anything that's high in indica, or is indica-dominant, it's more of a sedative opposed to a sativa, which is more of an energetic feeling," said Landrum.

There are drawbacks to the industry, says Beasley, like patients not being able to travel with prescriptions, employers discriminating against medical cannabis users and cost.

"The patients pay $75 a year for the card, my cost is $400 a year divided between visits, then $100 to $150 a month for the medicine," said Beasley. "So, it adds up."

On the higher end, that's a staggering $2,275 per year - not covered by insurance.

Then there's availability restrictions, as dispensaries are limited to where they can open and the number of stores they're allowed per state.

"No other free market does that happen," said Beasley. "If you want to open a pizza place, if you open too many pizza places they close because you don't have the business. But the medical marijuana stores are limited by statute, by population."

However, stocked to the ceiling with cannabis plants, they're seeing plenty of green. From cultivation to processing then delivery, companies like Trulieve are banking. One jar of this distillate oil is worth anywhere from $50,000 - $60,000.

It's supply, driven by demand.

The process, not moving quickly enough though, for Governor Ron DeSantis, who says after 71 percent of Floridians voted in favor of the Medical Marijuana Amendment in 2016, action is long overdue.

"Whether you smoke it or not, who am I to judge that? I want people to have their pain and suffering relieved," said DeSantis. "I don't think this law is up to snuff, we're currently in a number of cases, I want to use that - the fact that we're in this litigation as leverage to get better laws passed."

The next step, changing the federal status of medical marijuana and public perception.

"If I would have known now what I wish I knew then, I would have done it all differently," said Moseley. "This would have been the first thing that we tried."

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