Patients struggle to find doctors to recommend cannabis
VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Voters will decide in November whether or not to legalize medical cannabis in Florida, but there is already a budding system for growing, recommending and delivering products for a very specific set of patients.
FOX 35 has learned that those patients are having trouble finding doctors who will treat them.
It’s been about a year since 36-year-old Amanda Gammisch of Volusia County found out she had a brain tumor.
After two surgeries to remove the tumor, she and her doctors are waiting to see if what’s left of the cancerous tissue will grow.
"Most patients with my diagnosis will go directly to radiation or chemotherapy. But my doctors want me to wait because they think I have more time than most patients in my scenario,” Gammisch said.
Doctors think she has just five years to live.
Under current Florida law that qualifies her to use a medical cannabis product.
"I take an oil, with a dropper, that I put under my tongue and I take it twice a day and it does not affect me or make me tired,” Gammisch explained.
She doesn’t take the oil for pain or nausea.
The hope is that the cannabis in the oil will shrink the tumor in her brain.
"With the limited life expectancy that I'm facing, the CBD oil gives me hope for either a longer life expectancy or a possible cure to my cancer,” she said.
It took Gammisch much longer than she would have liked to find a doctor who would give her the recommendation she needed to get the medical marijuana.
"I knew it was legal for certain patients, so I started with my primary care physician and she didn't know anything about it,” she said.
Gammisch eventually learned that the Florida Department of Health has a list of doctors on its website who are certified to recommend medical marijuana.
But according to one of the medical cannabis dispensaries currently open in Florida, only about a third of the doctors on that list are actually accepting medical marijuana patients.
"One was out of business, so I didn't get an answer. The other wasn't accepting new patients. My third attempt was Dr. Rosado,” Gammisch said.
She found Dr. Joseph Rosado at Genesis Family Practice in Orange City.
Rosado helped her become the first patient in Central Florida to get a medical cannabis product produced in the state of Florida.
It was delivered in August.
When FOX 35 sat down with Rosado a few weeks later, he told us he had an influx of patients who also had trouble finding a doctor to recommend medical marijuana.
"I've drawn from St. Augustine…and as far [south] as Melbourne, and the Leesburg area,” Rosado said.
The doctor said he sees two to three patients a day who want to establish the 90-day doctor-patient relationship required before medical marijuana can be recommended.
"The types of patients I'm getting are the chronic seizure patients-- or epileptic patients-- that are on multiple medications-- anywhere between three and five medications-- and their seizures are not being controlled. The others are terminally ill patients,” Rosado said.
Florida law limits medical cannabis use to those who are terminally ill or those who have been diagnosed with cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasm.
"Thus far I've only had two patients come in that don't meet that criteria. That's it. Everyone else meets the criteria and then some,” Rosado said.
For Gammisch, knowing terminally ill, or seriously suffering patients, are having trouble getting medical cannabis is frustrating and scary.
"There are people that don't have 90 days” to find a doctor and establish care.
She will live her life almost as usual, hoping to see results from the product that took her so long to get.