Medical marijuana clinics are appearing in strip malls and office buildings across South Florida. There are about 6 chains opening up locations, one of the newest is Sun Valley Certification Florida, which also operates locations in other states. For now, these clinics are filling voids in the market and are helping patients become certified.
The clinics have doctors and staff specializing in medical marijuana, according to Miami Herald. Some locations, however, are being called predatory offices working as certification factories and not acting like a medical practitioner’s office. So, that has a bit of controversy stirred with some wondering if some centers are really there to heal or if they’re operating merely to capitalize.
Pat DeLuca of Compassionate Cannabis Clinic near Sarasota said, “There are good actors and bad actors. Unfortunately, with the recent upward progress [of medical marijuana] in the state, there have been a lot of nefarious practices that have popped up. We call them parasites. And there are people operating within the space that don’t deserve to be.”
Over 30,000 patients have visited doctors to become certified to use medical marijuana. Clinics for certification only started popping up since an amendment to the voter-approved legislation was approved in November.
Any licensed physician in the State of Florida can take the training courses to qualify to recommend marijuana. The clinics offer a specialized services. The clinics’ physicians view medical records to determine a patient’s qualifying potential. Visits cost between $200 and $300 with follow-up visits required.
At Compassionate Cannabis Clinic, a full physical is conducted by a physician. Using marijuana is individualized, and that is another aspect of what Compassionate Cannabis Clinic does – helps patients determine what types of products and how much would be ideal for them.
Florida’s regulatory system confuses patients and physicians, so it makes gaining access a little harder. Ben Pollara believes that the clinics serve a necessary function in this market as doctors are waiting for more assurance from both the state and federal government.
It is important to point out that not all certification clinics are created equal.
DeLuca said, “When we first started [in January] I would routinely get two or three phone calls a week from a marketer trying to sell me patient lists.”
For some owners, they are motivated to open chain locations from their own poor experience as a patient.
Cathy Paget of GE Health said, “These clinics want to take your money. They don’t really care. I felt like I was in a card mill and nobody wanted to take care of me.”
Paget’s location focuses on educating patients and helping them understand the state’s regulations and understanding medical marijuana in general.
Many of the facilities do put patients first; sometimes the patient’s need comes before their ability to pay – especially when a misdiagnosis or improper dosing regimen is suggested at other locations. The main point to remember is to do your homework and figure out which certification clinics are about the patient and not the profit.